Just in time for spring break, author Ana Spagna breaks into fiction in a big way with her young adult novel The Luckiest Scar on Earth. This is a classic coming-of-age story with a twist.
This is a genre first popularized in 18th century Germany, where the main characteristics of the story highlight the journey of a young person’s transition from a child to adult. Notable examples would be David Copperfield, Little Women and of course, the Harry Potter series.
Spagna, using her skills honed on her nonfiction work, introduces an unlikely duo of Charlotte and Larry. As the story opens, 14-year-old Charlotte and her mom, Angela, are packing up their lives in Colorado because Angela has lost her job. They are moving back to Washington state, where Larry, Charlotte’s father, lives. Colorado and the Rockies are the only home Charlotte knows, and she thinks it is the best place in the world to snowboard. Charlotte is a champion racer, and moving down to the dinky Cascades where the tallest mountains don’t even reach 9,000 feet is quite a letdown. So much so, she’s gotten rid of all her gear except her boards.
On the road west, Angela informs Charlotte that she will now get to see her father again. Charlotte is not thrilled at this idea because it has been just the two of them for so long.
Initially, Charlotte knows very little about Larry because he disappeared from her life when she was 5. When Charlotte sees Larry after almost 10 years, the first thing she notices is the large scar on his forehead. He calls it the luckiest scar on Earth because he could have died from a logging accident but didn’t.
This father-daughter relationship begins subdued but improves when Larry gets a job at Timberbowl Ski Area. Larry is able to get free tickets, and he asks Charlotte to teach him how to snowboard. This is great for Charlotte because Angela is still without a job and there is no money for extras like snowboarding.
Woven into Charlotte and Larry’s new relationship is the prospect of an issue facing many communities in the West. Timberbowl is old and its amenities are almost nonexistent, and now an Australian company has bought the hill and is looking to upgrade the property to include an airfield, golf course and 800 condos. The pristine wilderness and relative isolation are about to end.
The community is divided, new jobs and more business versus keeping the area natural. Charlottes sees the upgrade as an opportunity to get back to competition and a chance to get a sponsor to finance her potential career in racing. Larry, a longtime resident, wants to preserve his beloved home, and when he begins to fight for it, Charlotte feels betrayed. This puts Larry and Charlotte on opposite sides.
Poor Charlotte: New high school where she has no friends, no more free lift tickets so no more ski team, and Mom’s got a new boyfriend. To top it off, he turns out to be an architect working for the development company. Charlotte feels she’s firmly between a rock and a hard place.
Spagna tells this engaging story firmly in Charlotte’s voice. She deftly conveys Charlotte’s conflicting teenage emotions. The smallest slight gains magnified importance. The world and its events are immediate, and the future is hard to imagine as real. Relationships, especially in families, change and evolve, usually with some screaming and kicking along the way.
Spagna deftly educates readers while entertaining them. For example, readers learn about snow conditions in the backcountry and avalanche danger, and how to keep apple orchards heathy. Spagna has created a novel sure to keep readers engaged and moved by Charlotte and Larry’s journey to reconnect and build a new family dynamic for the future.
Leslie Doran is a retired teacher, freelance writer and former New Mexican who claims Durango as her forever home.