The High Climber Of Dark Water Bay, by Caroline Arden
[Note: This book was provided free of charge by Edelweiss/Ingram Publisher Services. All thoughts and opinions are my own.]
How far would you be willing to go to be wanted and needed? Would you be willing to travel to the remote wilderness of British Columbia where the boss is a corrupt man who plans on holding you for ransom or subjecting you to death or serious injury as part of the accidents of the job? Would you be willing to take on death-defying jobs like climbing to the top of tall trees to recover logging equipment? How far would you go and what would you be willing to do? This book, a modest sized literary novel aimed at young women, is set in the time of the Great Depression with a spirited orphan  named Lizzie at its center, asks that question insistently and the answers it provides are more than a little bit disturbing. Those who have sensitivities about vulnerable children being left in the company of loggers will likely find plenty to keep one up late.
The story itself is told well, setting the stage where the main character struggles with poverty and feeling unwanted by her relatives after the death of parents, her father by suicide. While struggling to find a place in the world she receives an invitation to serve as the governess to her nephews in the forests north of Vancouver, and finds herself a bit out of place, struggling to be safe and to be respected by others. Through her bravery and tenacity and a certain degree of skill in climbing trees she manages to earn the respect of her fellow loggers and a certain degree of safety in an unsafe place because of the protective instincts of the better sort of man there. This is historical fiction of a kind that presents a heroic but dangerous life of adventure as possible for young women and will likely be a popular one for those girls who want to find in history plausible inspiration from girls who bucked tradition and were able to make a path for themselves in a world that was often cruel and unkind–and Lizzie’s life certainly qualifies as that.
There are at least a few deeper areas of this book that are worthy of thought and reflection. Lizzie is a sharp enough girl whose wits and pluck and native charisma earn her a lot of goodwill. Her duel of wits with the corrupt boss of the logging camp has all of the markings of the battles between predators and prey throughout history, where predators seek to use their power to get their way while those who are weak form alliances with others, are hypervigilant while appearing to be harmless and inoffensive, and are resourceful and frequently dishonest. This is a book about adults who put children in harm’s way in order to earn some money or to be seen as a patron, and of children willing to go into harm’s way in order to feel themselves necessary to someone, anyone at all. The book has some overtones of a certain mutual fondness between Lizzie and one of the loggers there named Freddie which has romantic overtones, and is something which could be viewed as troubling, although the author handles it very gently and while avoiding any hint of physical intimacy. Still, this is a novel about a vulnerable and somewhat superfluous girl in danger who manages to cope and come up with some savvy survival strategies and ends up appreciating and enjoying the danger and finding the more conventional life others want for her to be a bit boring. There is both promise and matters of concern to be found here for contemporary young women and their parents.
 The history of lovable and spirited orphans in children’s literature is a long and noble one. See, for example: