Skip and Marlo Wells find themselves stuck living at their Aunt Noreen's house when their mother, Karen Jane, has been committed to a mental hospital. Marlo, a studious sixteen year old girl is forced to leave school and work in the family's hardware store. Ironically Skip, Marlo's twelve year old younger sister, isn't that interested in school but she's the one who gets to go, unfortunately for Skip. The story mostly follows Skip as she tries to find some sort of comfort in the town of Crater Lakes. Many times, she considers running away from her Aunt's sad house. She has trouble fitting into the school and several times finds herself in fights. Even her relationship with her sister is at risk because Marlo doesn't seem to understand Skip's problems.
The characters intrigue me. They are not regular at all. Many, even the people in the background, have some sort of unique persona or traits that make them special. I really liked Skip. For a young girl, I felt quite like I could appreciate many of the situations she found herself in and could certainly understand what she was going through. Essentially, if we break down the story line to the essentials, she's just a young girl who tries to fit in when she finds herself in a new town. She doesn't know what to do or how to deal with the problems and people around her, but she does the best she can, even without very good (real) role models. I also appreciated the relationship with Marlo was dwindling and, though they were pretty close earlier in the novel, they were sort of losing each other bit by bit. It seemed pretty realistic to me, that Skip was worried for her sister and that she still held out hope that they'd escape the town. Going on with Marlo, I felt that her character was pretty natural. There's just something about the way she was written that makes it kind of sad, but I liked that she kept her head high and just kept trying to follow her dreams. I liked the crush she had on the teacher and appreciated that later on in the book, she got chapters dedicated to what was going on in her life. If I could change anything, I would want her to have a little more of her life in the book. However, I can see why the author might not have wanted to; I guess it might just get a little bit repetitive if we were just to see her, day after day, in the hardware store. Though, a chapter or two more so that we could see her studies or a bit more of the play might have been good. It might help better explain the crush she has on Mr. Brooker and a little more about the other members of cast, seeing as these are essentially kind of important parts of the end of the book.
I felt that the introduction of Roger Dansie was a little bit surprising to me. It just seemed like, later on in the book, he suddenly appeared and that was that. His story is later explained, but I think that it felt just slightly forced. I think the introduction of his character, and back-story, could have been done a little bit better- that we might have the town or theatre group gossiping about him and what had happened. I think that the author could have spent a little more time explaining the relationship between him and Skip. At the end, I felt that they truly had love for each other. However, at the same time, I just think a lot of those portions went unexplained, like the way the group just simply moves into his home. I don't need a step by step explanation of the events, but I would like to read more into this relationship with him and Skip. It just feels like the author skimmed over something really incredible there and it makes me kind of disappointed. I could really quite understand Aunt Noreen and her motives. I think that, though we're meant to dislike her because of what she does and the way she acts, I really do understand her. It must be kind of unfortunate, being stuck with your sister's kids. She needs to feed, cloth and house them. So, to me, it really does make sense that she had sent Marlo to work at the shop. As for the mother, Karen Jane, I did like her free spirit and her unfortunate circumstances. I considered it kind of sad that we didn't see much more of her later on in the book and that the letter she had sent seemed to be a one-time event. I would have liked to see a little more. For the Lum's Den characters, I really did like the way it turned out. Though, I felt like their bullying went a little unexplained in some portions. Like when they turned up at the well, for example, and the dislike for cats could have been better explained as well.
My first thoughts regarding the plot and writing is that I quite like it. I like how snappy the sentences are and the way the author writes it the book. There's a lot of personality in this book and a lot of that comes from the author's writing style. It really helps that the author has included all sorts of varying emotions in it. In many portions, I could feel fear for the characters, embarrassment, upset and heartbreak. Likewise, I was pleased when something went right and many of the good feelings as well. For the plot, I think that it all came together really well. In some portions, the scene changes made it a little difficult to tell what was going on and sometimes during these changes, I didn't realise whether they were flashbacks at first. I think that one of the things that I liked most about the book is that it doesn't seem to have a specific plot line other than the girls moving to the town. Usually, I might consider that a bad point in a book. However, the author does it really well in Volcano Street. The author is not just writing the story of the characters; it's that he's also writing the story of a whole town. We get to experience the small plot of the time capsule and visit the fair; we get a view into the potential of the acting society and a bit of a look into the interests of the townspeople. I think that Crater Lakes is an interesting place and if the author were to write more about the town, I would really like to give it a read. The overall story kind of reminds me of To Kill a Mockingbird by Gregory Peck. I didn't necessarily feel it at first, but at the end, I just mentally felt like there was some sort of connection. They're both sort of narratives on the way social problems effect people. It's difficult to explain my thoughts on that point.
I was lucky enough to have won an uncorrected bound proof copy as a prize from a First Reads giveaway, thanks to Allen and Unwin. I'm really glad that I got the chance to read it, because it was a pretty incredible book. I think that, though it wasn't perfect, it was very well written. I felt empathy for the characters and could see motives for most actions. I think it was interesting to spend a little time in Crater Lakes and see into these peoples' lives. Skip and Marlo were both thoroughly interesting people and it would be nice to share in their adventures again in future, or even to share in the lives of other citizens of Crater Lakes. I'm thoroughly impressed with the book. Five stars!