Friday, November 16, 2007

Out of Order by Robin Stevenson

I read first time author Robin Stevenson's book, Out of Order, about a month ago but, a trip to Chicago, one to Vancouver, and my role as Canadian Children's Book Week coordinator on Vancouver Island have kept me too busy for reviews. Don't let the slightly old fashioned cover put you off. This is a realy good read.

Once you crack the spine, it isn't hard to related to fifteen year old Sophie, her new friends Zelia, and later Max. Having just moved to Victoria, Sophie is determined to shed her past and the extra pounds that she believes marked her as an easy target for bullying at her last school. The "new improved" Sophie meets a charismatic loner, Zelia and a fast friendship ensues. But, Sophie eventually finds herself more and more uncomfortable with Zelia's fast track to self-destruction. While Sophie remains blind to her own eating disorder, the "new" Sophie starts to show cracks. She turns to Max with whom she shares a love of horse-riding and who appears to be Zelia's opposite. Sophie desperately wants to let down her guard with Max, but is afraid of rejection. Max is hiding her own secrets; afraid of the label that her sexual preference might cost her.

Three girls; three different issues; three different approaches to coping with their world. It almost sounds like melodrama. And I admit that at times the balancing act was just a tad shaky. Somehow though, Stevenson keeps from tipping over the edge. Sophie and Zelia are particularly well drawn, and it's although it's easy although gut wrenching to follow their paths. I did have a little more trouble with Max, whose character is not as fully developed. For the most part though, these are kids that could live next door. As the mother of three daughters, one of whom hung out in the same spots as Sophie, Zelia and Max, I found Stevenson's characters maddeningly arrogant as well as achingly vulnerable. Having seen my fair share of teenage angst, I'd say Stevenson knows of what she writes, and I don't doubt that as her craft develops, she will be a writer we'll be hearing more from.

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