Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels
- Age: 10 to 14
- Grade: 5 to 9
In Gayle Friesen's powerful novel, 15-year-old Ben can't make sense of his life. He lives in a house full of women, yet he can't talk to girls. He tries to be a jock, but can't even make the co-ed volleyball team. And ridicule from the guys has driven Ben to give up the one thing at which he truly excels -- dance. Now, he's being bullied by a thug named Claude, who's found out about Ben's ballet classes. Ben feels his anger and frustration grow with each passing day. Then Great-Aunt Frieda comes to visit and Ben learns about the old woman's life in Russia. He's surprised at how Frieda dealt with the Men of Stone -- Stalin's agents who terrorized her community and family. As Frieda tells her powerful story, Ben begins to understand who he is and what kind of person he wants to be. But first he must get past the rage that has taken control of his life.
About the author
GAYLE FRIESEN is the award-winning author of five novels for young adults, which have garnered critical acclaim in both Canada and the United States. The Valley is her first novel for adults. She lives in Delta, British Columbia, with her husband and two children.
- Short-listed, Snow Willow Award, Saskatchewan’s Young Readers’ Choice
- Winner, Top Shelf Fiction Middle School List, Voices of Youth Advocates
- Short-listed, Manitoba Young Reader’s Choice Award
- Short-listed, Sheila A. Egoff Award
- Runner-up, International Book Award, The Society of School Librarians International
- Short-listed, Violet Downey Book Award
- Winner, Parents’ Guide to Children’s Media
- Winner, Red Maple Award, Ontario Library Association
- Short-listed, Book of the Year, ForeWord Magazine
- Runner-up, Young Adult Book Award, Canadian Library Association
Older adolescents, both boys and girls, will relate to Ben and his situation. Recommended.
The plot reveals itself through several characters but the message remains constant: Be true to yourself. The story is quick to read and engaging enough to interest even reluctant readers. Historical references to Frieda’s life in Russia prompt readers to consider what it is like to be oppressed, whether by bullies in your neighborhood or in your government.