Plot/Idea: In Kill the Turkey, 13-year-old friends Lyric and Atusko reside in oceanside Otter Rock, Oregon, where they practice surfing and come to know two older residents of the community, including the kind and eccentric Burt, who is haunted by the death of his son and is committed to saving the otters who are facing removal from the region. Zerndt crafts the setting carefully and vividly, while exploring the experiences of the story's main characters and how they become interconnected throughout.
Prose: Zerndt's prose is warm, and evenly balanced between description, effectively delivered exposition, and authentic dialogue that goes a long way toward character development and establishing the distinctive setting.
Originality: Kill the Turkey integrates a lot into a relatively short novel, including a brush with a shark; a mystery surrounding an old barn and an errant chair (ultimately revealed to be a quietly tragic story); and the fate of a region's local wildlife. The story also explores themes of friendship, family struggles, and grief. All told, the work's many threads are somewhat underdeveloped, each deserving of more attention and space to fully coalesce.
Character/Execution: Lyric and Atsuko are nicely established characters with an easy rapport who individually come to better understand their familial circumstances, while also examining larger questions about life and loss. Atsuko is a skilled surfer coping with her grandmother's failing health, while Lyric's narrative arc is more focused on his struggles with his father's alcoholism and parents’ divorce. The adult characters are well-rendered, though their connections to Atsuko and Lyric occur somewhat hastily in the story, and their own pasts--particularly Burt's--could benefit from more attention.
Date Submitted: April 19, 2023