Growing up in a picturesque Newfoundland fishing village should be idyllic for sixteen-year-old Kit Ryan, but living with an alcoholic father makes Kit's day-to-day life unpredictable and almost intolerable. When the 1992 cod moratorium forces her father out of a job, the tension between Kit and her father grows. Forced to leave their rural community, the family moves to the city, where they live with Uncle Iggy, a widower with problems of his own. Immediately pegged as a "baygirl," Kit struggles to fit in, but longstanding trust issues threaten to hold her back when a boy named Elliot expresses an interest in her.
"This first-person tale gently illustrates change, both good and bad."
"Sitting at the juncture between historical and contemporary realism, Baygirl is, very much, a bildungsroman, a coming-of-age story that will captivate the attention of today's young adults...This well-crafted novel deals with the maturation and growing awareness of self and others...One of the alluring aspects of this historically realistic novel is Smith's obvious insider-knowledge of the impact that the all-too-real moratorium on the cod fishery had on the lives of ordinary Newfoundlanders who depended on this natural resource for their livelihood...Part of the charm and allure of this novel is its skilful depiction and stitching together of social and personal challenges in believable ways. And this makes it ideal for book clubs and literature discussion groups inside and outside of schools...A remarkable first novel that I vigorously recommend for students in Grade nine and up."
"Teen Kit Ryan learns about love and loss in this luminous young adult novel set in 1990s Newfoundland...Teens will connect with Smith’s well-crafted characters, including the fully-formed protagonist. The tragic ending will resonate with readers, and they will root for Kit as she emerges from the other side."
"A sensitive and well-crafted story, rich with humour and pathos...The author, a St. John’s native, is sympathetic to Kit and her father, neither treading into maudlin territory nor making this an 'issue of the week' type of book."
"An accurate story of life in St. John's in 1992...Smith has given a different perspective on the Cod Moratorium and how it impacted the lives of fishing families who had to rebuild and retrain at an unexpected time in their life."
"[A] gritty, realistic, coming-of-age story...[Kit] is such a likable character. She is strong-willed, sharp-tongued, and possesses one heck of a sense of humour. I have met this character before. Coincidence? I think the island breeds this type of feistiness. Regardless, Ms. Smith captures it perfectly. The language is also spot-on. Although a bit 'salty' at times, it is this verisimilitude that has readers buying into the authenticity of the story...The details of the family's hardships are not sugar-coated by any means; yet, all is not bleak. Hope exists for Kit, and it comes at the hands of forgiveness."
[Starred review] "Refreshingly, Smith chooses not to cast Phonse as an abusive alcoholic, but accurately portrays the mood swings, unpredictability, and misunderstandings of the disease...Kit is a likable, sympathetic heroine who is often funny in a goofy, endearing way. The supporting characters are equally strong...while the language convincingly evokes the novel's East Coast setting...With sprightly dialogue, relatable characters, and a story that delves into serious subject matter without becoming morose, Baygirl is a balanced, well-written debut."