Written in Blood
2010, 157pp. $12.95 pbk. Orca. 978-1-55469-270-5. Grades 7-12.
Written in Blood will appeal to young adults looking for a fast-paced adventure. It is 1877 and sixteen-year-old Jim Doolan is on a journey from Canada to Mexico to find his father who left Jim and his mother ten years before. Jim has only a note that his father left that gives the name of a town in Mexico and the name “Don Alfonso Ramirez.” There are many interesting characters and exciting situations in store for Jim. He will be beaten, rescued, and almost killed before he finds out the truth about his family. Each character that Jim meets is richly described and each situation adds a little bit to the pieces of the puzzle, keeping those pages turning.
The story discusses “scalping parties” that hunted the Apache for money. Also included is information about Mexico’s history, and the search for gold in California and Canada, making it an excellent accompaniment to a curriculum that covers these topics.
The story is bloody and includes scalpings, shootings, and bloody beatings. This could be disturbing to some, but it is also what appeals to many reluctant readers, especially boys. The reading level is lower, chapters are short, and the dialog is easy to follow.
A sophisticated reader will begin to suspect the outcome of the book, but even that doesn’t detract from the excitement of each predicament that Jim encounters. Jim discovers that much of his past is Written in Blood, but in the process is better prepared to take on the future.