Mele’s attempts to do the right thing, in such a complex situation with her parents at odds, make for an intriguing premise. Anderson, who lived in Hawai’i, is clearly knowledgeable about its culture and its people—there are references to real historical figures and places sprinkled throughout—and her descriptions of the physical landscape are detailed and poetic, making readers feel they’re right alongside Mele.
The many side stories (including those of Daniel Livingstone, a disrespectful boy from San Francisco; Keanu, a criminal on trial for murder; and Kalua, a young boy who keeps sneaking onto cargo ships) can lessen the impact of Mele’s journey by giving the reader a great deal of information to digest at once. The story is at its best when it focuses on Mele, her family, and her place in society. Ultimately, this is a riveting and educational coming-of-age tale, and readers will relish learning about this period in Hawa’ii through Mele’s experience.
Takeaway: This thought-provoking coming-of-age novel is perfect for history buffs.
Great for fans of: Alan Brennert’s Moloka’i, Kiana Davenport’s Shark Dialogues.
Design and typography: A
Marketing copy: B+
"I was, while reading, constantly reminded of ... books I read earlier in my life that similarly 'touched my very soul,' by Leon Uris - James Michener - John Steinbeck..."
"Running from Moloka`i is a notable exception that is worth any historical fiction lover's time...Anderson has meticulously researched the culture and history of both leprosy and the white colonization of Hawaii. Her writing is exceptional.... I too give it 5 stars--I can't wait for more from Anderson."