On the Waterfront


Young Adult - Coming of Age
Kindle Edition
Reviewed on 11/09/2022
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    Book Review

Reviewed by Carmen Tenorio for Readers' Favorite

On the Waterfront by Mike McCoy is the coming-of-age story of thirteen-year-old Danny Novak, a child of divorced parents in the early 70s who was eager to get away from his unhappy family by getting a job as a summer camp staffer. He first saw it as a welcome adventure and a good source of income before being awakened by the reality of hard kitchen labor and fitting into a dreadful place littered with bullies and weirdos. On the other hand, Danny did acquire some skills and did a lot of useful, amusing, and even forbidden stuff in camp. Most of all, he valued the chance to work on the waterfront, where things were more intriguing. Before being awarded the mile swim badge, Danny had to train under the meanest but most misunderstood boy who worked on the waterfront, Mark Colby. He was tough on Danny at first, but as they continued to deal with the mishaps, difficult situations, and the people at Camp Baker, Mark proved to be a trustworthy friend. Their common quest and struggles brought them closer and made them share the belief that a life of suffering can lead to a meaningful life. Years later, Danny would realize that what ultimately helped him mature in confidence, strength, and perspective was brought about by the imperfections, sufferings, devastation, and loss he had during that unforgettable 1972 summer. It was a pivotal time that made him see that learning and growing continue for our entire lives.

On the Waterfront is a semi-autobiographical short novel by Mike McCoy, with some people and circumstances being based on real-life experiences he had as a Scout in Camp Baker. Written from the first person point of view, the author has exploited this so the reader can easily step inside Danny Novak's thoughts and feel his emotions. It can be both comedic and heartbreaking to share the experiences of a young man who tries to grow up on his own. The author has a conversational and engaging style that uses a lot of teen slang at times and descriptive figures of speech on occasion. It has a deeply personal tone, easy pacing, and good character development that shape the narrative. The book's 70s pop culture references and activities are filled with nostalgia. If you are open-minded about what is sometimes regarded as the appalling immaturity of a teenage mind and are generally a fan of the coming-of-age genre, this book is for you. It's a sentimental, sometimes funny, poignant, and bittersweet short novel, which makes it an entertaining and even memorable read.

Melanie Kennedy

On the Waterfront by Mike McCoy is a touching coming-of-age novel about the highs and lows of being a teenager. The story is a blend of real-life experiences and fiction at a Boy Scout camp. Thirteen-year-old Danny Novak is working the summer at Camp Baker to escape from his dreadful family and miserable home. He starts off the summer full of hope, thinking that making friends and having the time of his life would come easily. Nothing in life is that easy for Danny. An unfortunate incident at the waterfront binds Danny to the mysterious and dangerous Mark. Intent on making the most of the situation, Danny and Mark become close friends and learn to trust and enjoy the people around them, as well as look forward to the future with optimism. A beautiful friendship blossomed that would impact the rest of their lives.

Mike McCoy has written a poignant story about growing up. Most grown-ups will not remember their time as a teenager too fondly, as it’s an incredibly awkward and emotional time. On The Waterfront captures this completely as we see Danny Novak try to run away from his problems, but luckily he found wonderful friends and mentors along the way. The author brings his Scout experiences to the fore as he describes Oregon’s scenic forests marvelously. I felt as if I was in the forest myself, waiting for nightfall and enjoying sitting around a campfire. The author has encapsulated his teenage experiences into this work and has finally written the wonderful story he contemplated so many years ago so that we can all enjoy it now.