The YA novel Stalking Los Angeles by Tom Berquist alternates between the viewpoint of Reggie Youngblood, a Native American youth, and a mountain lion growing up in the hills around Santa Monica. It was wonderful to have these glimpses into the mind of an animal. Tom Berquist’s perspective as a wildlife advocate informs the narrative. It was fascinating to see the human boy and the young lion pass through similar stages of development.
Another significant theme in this book is Native American identity. Reggie attempts to follow a Native spiritual practice on his own in absence of a community. His father had decided in favor of integration with Euro-American society. While a vision quest has traditionally involved isolation, it was normally interpreted with the guidance of an elder. Reggie had no Native elder to assist him. This aspect of the novel demonstrates that a successful adolescent rite of passage may require some direction from an adult.
Wildlife expert Joe Sartor does provide Reggie with a professional role model. Reggie’s bond with Joe is a positive influence on his life especially as compared to his ambivalent relationship with his PTSD and alcohol ravaged father. Berquist realistically shows that recovery from PTSD is a long process that can involve setbacks.
I was heartened by this book’s resolution. Since the preservation of endangered species like the California mountain lion is important to me, I was glad to see Joe Sartor and Reggie Youngblood involved in this cause. Despite human encroachment on the mountain lion’s habitat, Stalking Los Angeles offered some hope that humans and lions might be able to co-exist.
So this is a book with great characterization and important themes realistically developed which ends on an optimistic note. I recommend it highly to both adult and YA readers.