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Young Adult Fiction Coming Of Age

The Middle of Everywhere

by (author) Monique Polak

Orca Book Publishers
Initial publish date
Oct 2009
Coming of Age, Aboriginal & Indigenous, Emotions & Feelings
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Oct 2009
    List Price
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Oct 2009
    List Price

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Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels

  • Age: 12 to 18
  • Grade: 8 to 12
  • Reading age: 12 to 18


Noah Thorpe is spending the school term in Kangiqsualujjuaq, in Quebec's Far North, where his dad is an English teacher in the Inuit community.

Noah's not too keen about living in the middle of nowhere, but getting away from Montréal has one big advantage: he gets a break from the bully at his old school. But Noah learns that problems have a way of following you—no matter how far you travel. To the Inuit kids, Noah is a qallunaaq—a southerner, someone ignorant of the customs of the North. Noah thinks the Inuit have a strange way of looking at the world, plus they eat raw meat and seal blubber. Most have never left the George River area—and it doesn't even have its own doctor, let alone a McDonald's.

But Noah's views change when he goes winter camping and realizes he will have to learn a few lessons from his Inuit buddies if he wants to make it home.

About the author



MONIQUE POLAK is the author of 26 novels for young readers, as well as two non-fiction titles and a board book. Her books Hate Mail, Room for One More, and the historical novel What World is Left, which was inspired by her mother’s experience during the Holocaust, were all winners of the Quebec Writers’ Federation Prize for Children’s and YA Literature.



Her books have also been nominated for the Geoffrey Bilson Award for Historical Fiction for Young People and the Arthur Ellis Award, and several have been selected as Best Books for Children and Teens by the Canadian Children’s Book Centre.



She is also a freelance journalist whose work has appeared in The Globe and Mail, Macleans, and Postmedia newspapers across the country, and is a columnist on ICI Radio-Canada’s Plus on est de fous, plus on lit! Monique lives in Montreal, Quebec, where she teaches English and Humanities at Marianopolis College.


Monique Polak's profile page


  • Short-listed, Quebec Writers' Federation Prize nominee
  • Commended, Resource Links "The Year's Best"

Excerpt: The Middle of Everywhere (by (author) Monique Polak)

Tarksalik is about forty feet ahead of me, running by the side of the road. I can tell she's got sled-dog blood in her from the way she runs: head high, legs taut.
The sun has just come up, and when it lands on Tarksalik, it looks like she's shining too. For the first time since I found out I'd be spending this term in Nunavik, in northern Quebec, getting reacquainted with my dad, I don't feel one hundred percent miserable. Right now, as I let the fresh cold air fill my lungs, I'd say I'm down to about eighty-five percent miserable.
Maybe, I think as I watch Tarksalik run, this visit won't turn out to be a total disaster. Maybe there's more to life than Montreal.

Editorial Reviews

"A great deal of information about daily life and Inuit culture is packed into the recounting of a few days in the community. Beer, bullying and a hint of romance keep the first-person narrative in the typical 15-year-old realm. The conditions of life are harsh but not impossible, and the gradual rapprochement between Noah and his dad adds a nice counterpoint to Noah's reaction to this exotic world into which he not only arrives but that he discovers he admires."

Kirkus Reviews

"A well-crafted, revealing look at Inuit culture…A memorable book - a very worthwhile and important read for youth who are open to learning about the lived experiences of others with much to teach."

Canadian Children's Book News

"The harsh living conditions and culture of the Inuit abound. Yet, the actions, thoughts, and fears portrayed are of any typical 15-year-old boy who finds himself in an atypical setting…The commotion (storms, polar bears, and tragedy at camp) keeps our attention."


"Noah's greatest adventure is discovering that the middle of nowhere can be the beginning of something new."

The ALAN Review

"The story eloquently addresses coming of age, understanding different cultures, and the values of a young teen as he spends time with his father in a predominately Inuit culture."

Tacoma School District #10

"Useful for its discussion of Canada's Inuit culture and the history of oppression that accompanies it, as well as the effect of climate change on northern life. I highly recommend this book; it is engaging, entertaining and a pleasure to read."

CM Magazine

"The survival-adventure details will engage reluctant readers [and] the story has elements of romance when Noah strives to impress an Inuit classmate…Add this to survival/adventure collections."

School Library Journal

"A powerful novel that blends the emotional insecurities of young teenage boys with their need to be strong...Polak delivers her tale with a simplicity and realism that brings the readers into the northern world."

Resource Links

Librarian Reviews

The Middle of Everywhere

In this novel, fifteen-year-old Noah leaves his home in Montreal to spend a school term with his father, a teacher in a remote northern Quebec Inuit village. At first, he cannot understand why anyone would want to live in such bleak place “in the middle of nowhere”. As he gradually gets to know the people and their ways, Noah develops an appreciation of the Inuit way of life. The less-than-perfect Noah sometimes makes poor choices that lead to dangerous situations. He nearly gets his father’s husky killed, has encounters with a bully and a polar bear, loses a five-year-old boy in a snowstorm, and retrieves a severed thumb from the snow. He also falls in love. Readers will become aware of Inuit history and culture while being entertained by this fast-paced, well written story.

Caution: Contains some course language and references to the RCMP’s mass killing of sled dogs between 1950 and 1970.

Source: The Association of Book Publishers of BC. Canadian Aboriginal Books for Schools. 2010-2011.

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