Up the Creek
Up the Creek
“So, those two guys. Once the equipment comes, will they be going?”
Dad shook his head. “Nah. Dey’re gonna help me. Won’t be long before we’re rolling in it!” He punched my shoulder for emphasis. I gave him a weak smile. When we walked back outside Ballcap and Shifty were lurking nearby. I bet anything they had been listening.
“Daryl and Carl here have an excavator and a sluice lined up. We should be mining by the end of next week,” Dad said.
I smiled at them as I believed it.
“Well, I had better get going. It was nice meeting you,” I said to them, not wanting to give away that I was onto them. I started jogging out the way I came, hoping to get back before Anna or Neils noticed I was missing. I would be in so much trouble if they found out I was visiting my dad unsupervised. But that didn’t worry me as much as what was going on with our claim. I wasn’t as quick as Shard at reading people, but I knew this right away: those two guys were bad news. Somehow I had to get rid of them before Mrs. Olsen got back on her feet and paid another visit to Dawson. One look at the state of the cabin and the bathhouse, or at my dad’s bloodshot eyes, and I’d be in foster care for years. And if Neils and Anna couldn’t or wouldn’t keep me that long, I could be moved anywhere, including far away from him.
But I didn’t know how to do it. How do you run off two huge men who look like they don’t mind a fight, and especially when your dad won’t back you up because he doesn’t even recognize they are trouble? I had no idea, but I knew who would.
Up the Creek follows up Mine! in the continued adventures of Chris Dearing. With Chris firmly settled in with his foster family, Neils and Anna, in Dawson City, readers rejoin him as he waits for his father’s release from prison so they can be re-united and work the family gold claim Chris was able to successfully defend from ne’er-do-wells at the end of Mine!. Readers won’t need to have read Mine! to keep up with the plot of Up the Creek as Natalie Hyde seamlessly makes sure everyone’s up to speed on the state of Chris’ life and re-introduces readers to the crew that helped Chris on his initial adventure up to the Yukon. The stakes have changed, though; instead of staking a claim, Chris (and his father) now need to set up a successful gold mining operation on their claim while also doing all the work necessary for Chris to be re-united full-time with his father, Frank. Chris’ friend Shard, Shard’s Uncle Vinnie, and Chris’ old neighbour Fiona, all of whom helped Chris get up to the Yukon last summer, have all come back for a visit, setting the scene for the original team to be together when hijinks (inevitably) ensue.
When Frank appears, without warning, living in the cabin on the gold claim, Chris is overjoyed and imagines an immediate reunion. Unfortunately, a few wrenches are thrown into this plan – the cabin on the claim is not up to standards according to Chris’ social worker, and Frank almost immediately falls in with a couple of shady characters. Chris and Shard are convinced that these men are not only out to steal gold and other valuables from the Dearing claim but they are also putting Frank in a position to go back to his hard-drinking ways. On top of that, Chris’ social worker suffers an accident, and her temporary replacement seems dead set on not only keeping Chris from living with his father but also even going as far as taking him away from Neils and Anna and re-locating him to Whitehorse. On top of all this, Chris finds out his grandfather, Wally, was accused of stealing gold from the mine where he worked as a young man – but Chris is certain the gold Wally had was from his claim, and not the mine where he worked.
Chris is determined to do a lot this summer: clear his grandfather’s name, move back in with his dad, and start mining for gold. Luckily for Chris, his support network is at the ready – from helping fix up the cabin, to enlisting the help of a disbanded motorcycle gang to throw a wrench in some travel plans, Chris’ community again rises up to help him out. There are more hiccups along the way, but, just like last time, Chris ends up where he belongs – surrounded by people who love him.
While Up the Creek does deal with serious issues (family members with alcohol use problems, social workers and children in care), the levity with which these topics are treated may ring false to youth with lived experience in these matters. While the portrayals are not offensive, they are not necessarily realistic and come to sudden, simple, and positive conclusions. Overall, Up the Creek is a fun read and will appeal to readers who are fans of family drama, reality-based stories, and happy endings. While some readers may take issue with the ways in which the heavier topics are covered in Up the Creek, overall it is a fun and quick read, and should appeal across demographics.
Susie Wilson, a librarian by training, is currently working in research and evaluation with an organization that supports access to mental health supports for youth and young adults across British Columbia. She currently resides in Prince George, British Columbia.