It is no secret to anyone who reads this blog that I am a huge fan of the work of author Mike Friedman. That being said, when Mike announced that he was doing a Kickstarter project to self-publish a new work aimed at young people, I wanted to get involved. Mike's Kickstarter was a success and he set to work on a novel to introduce a new superhero.
One of the perks that went along with getting in on the ground floor to support Mike's project was an electronic copy of I Am The Salamander. I read it as soon as I got it and was eager to write about it in my blog, but alas, I was forced to wait until it was released to the public, which happened about a month ago.
Imagine yourself as a junior in high school, just surviving a bout with cancer, returning to school for the first day. A few of those who know you are happy to see you; some are not so happy, and most have no idea how to approach you. A very awkward situation indeed. However, on top of all that, you begin to notice that some weird things are happening to you like, when you get aggravated, you suddenly notice that your body undergoes some changes of color, or you suddenly develop sensitivity to light and heat, or even more bizarre, you suddenly have the ability to regenerate parts of you that are removed.
Such is the situation that Tim Cruz finds himself in. He has no idea what is happening to him and thinks that it might be as a result of his disease returning. Even though his mother is a successful real estate agent, Tim knows that the medical bills have mounted during his treatment and feels he needs to help. Before he went into the hospital, Tim held a job at the local aquarium, to which he returns seeking part time employment. While leaving, he sees that a young girl has fallen into a tank of piranha and dives in after her. While doing this, he finds that he can breathe under water and that he can swim very well. He successfully rescues the little girl and flees to avoid bringing attention to himself. He discovers that he has lost some toes, but soon sees that they are miraculously growing back.
This story unfolds in many interesting directions, all the while Tim is being pursued by several people who either want to learn who the mysterious person was that saved the girl, or by some who want to exploit him for his abilities.
While I Am The Salamander is intended for a young audience, I was caught up in the story from the very beginning. Mike demonstrates that he really understands younger readers by providing plenty of action and mystery couched in some colorful writing that doesn't get too wordy. It should hold the attention of the target audience quite well. While the point is made that the main protagonist is a cancer survivor, one must remember that the story is not about a kid surviving a potentially fatal disease, but rather how this young person might cope with returning to a normal situation under some very abnormal circumstances to become an otherwise unlikely hero.
After I finished reading Salamander, I found myself wanting more. I don't think that the plight of Tim Cruz is over because this story absolutely begs for a sequel. There is definitely something in this book for young readers to show them that no matter how difficult life can be, there are solutions to problems that present themselves as one learns to adapt to situations that seem impossible and as one learns to accept themselves for who they are.
Well, there it is...