My kids are still pretty little, and when I take away their privileges for some infraction, and they cry and I comfort them, sometimes I tell them that there are many worse things you can lose than an extra half-hour of playtime. Making right choices is important. And in their youth and inexperience, they don't know what they have that they could lose.
And that's where I start from with Yoss.
This book begins with a coming-of-age ritual in Yoss's village, a manhood ceremony. Yoss is just turning fourteen, and he walks away from the village determined to find something of value and bring it back. Within the first few chapters, he begins to understand the scope of the world outside the secluded mountains where he has grown up, and he walks on with a mixture of anticipation and wonderment.
The book quickly turns into a cautionary tale, as Yoss encounters two outlaws who spare his life but use him wickedly in their schemes. Captured, sold into slavery, mystified at the course his life has taken, and still wondering what he will bring back to the villagers, he impresses those around him with his willingness, his hard work, and his innocence.
Until the last few chapters of the book, I thought this was going to be a parallel of the Old Testament Joseph story -- a young man deceived and enslaved who makes good; in the end, becoming a wellspring of safety, security, wealth, and forgiveness for others.
Yoss does not end that way. In fact, the book is so inconclusive that I dropped my rating from the five stars which the writing and the characterization should have earned, to three stars. I think I'm just wistful for the ending this book might have had.
This is my second Odo Hirsch book (I really liked Bartlett and the Ice Voyage). I would certainly recommend it for young readers (early teens or matures tweens), but I think parents should read it too, so they can maybe work on alternate endings with their kids.