Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Tweaked by Katherine Holubitsky

I suppose I should be thankful that BC Ferries takes so much of my hard-earned money. After all, it frequently allows me a few hours of assured reading, especially while I wait for hours in ferry line-ups. So, yesterday on my way back to Victoria after a long weekend in Vanouver, I finished another of the young adult books my publisher sales rep. daughter has recommended. She had warned me that Tweaked, by Katherine Holubitsky, was not an easy read and she was right. It wasn't easy, but it was incredibly insightful.

Holubitsky wisely gives us a glimpse of normality before thrusting us headlong into hell. Gordie and his older brother Chase are every kid, building forts in the ravine. Holubrintsky hints that all will not be well when the oldest pushes the limit and clears a whole section of the forest. Still, it's hard to imagine the nightmare that lurks in the Jessup family's future.

Told from Gordie's point of view, the story vibrates with the rawness of the recently burned. Gordie's home is fast becoming a living hell that is known to any family living with an addict who will lie, cheat, or steal to get their next fix. Neither an assault charge (which later becomes a murder charge when the man dies) nor the self-inflicted death of one of his friends is enough to turn Chase away from the drugs he craves. Nothing is safe, including the $2000 Gordie loans his brother to pay off his brother's drug dealer, nor Gordie's prize base guitar which he discovers his brother has stolen, nor even the family home which has been mortgaged to get Chase out of jail and pay for his legal bills.

It's hard to watch a brother or a son disintegrate before your eyes, and just as hard to watch a family self-destruct trying to help them. Reading Tweaked was not easy. But then, it isn't meant to be. The author is no preacher. She paints a picture that is as stark as it is real. She tell a story that is harsh but gripping. However, I suspect, as she must surely hope, that if you follow Chase and Gordie's literary path, you won't be inclined to follow the real one. I guarantee that it's well worth the read, and it may just change the way you look at the world, or the choices your students or your kids make. Read Tweaked today.

Monday, May 12, 2008

You can count on these...

CLA Announces 2008 Young Adult Book Award Shortlist (13-18)
The Space Between Written by Don Aker (HarperCollins)

Mistik Lake Written by Martha Brooks (Groundwood Books)
For Now Written by Gayle Friesen (Kids Can Press)
The Corps of the Bare-Boned Plane Written by Polly Horvath (Groundwood Books)
How It Happened in Peach Hill Written by Marthe Jocelyn(Tundra Books)
Another Kind of Cowboy Written by Susan Juby(HarperCollins)
Retribution Written by Carrie Mac (Penguin)
Eye of the Crow Written by Shane Peacock(Tundra Books)
Into the Ravine Written by Richard Scrimger Tundra Books)
Better than Blonde Written by Teresa Toten (Penguin)

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Lockdown by Diane Tullson

I finished Diane Tulson's Lockdown on the ferry while on route to speak at the Kamloops Young Author's Conference. What a dynamo writer that woman is, and prolific too! (See reviews of some of her earlier books on this blog) Books about high school shooters are mushrooming, almost as fast as the real life incidents that inspire them. Tulson's is specifically aimed at reluctant readers as part of the Orca Book Publishers Soundings series. I suspect it will find a wider audience given recent events, particularly in the U.S.

The thing that amazed me is how adept Tullson is at the telling of a complex story with few words. She wastes no time, drawing readers into the world of high school hurt where you can be sure that if one kid bears the brunt of a joke, another kid is just relieved it isn't directed at them. This is the breeding ground for one of the scariest phenomenon you can imagine in high schools today; school shooters. Even more impressive is the fact that Tullson works her magic with characters who ring true; whether it's Josh who tips over the edge after one more bullying incident, Adam who is a quasi friend who ends up on the wrong side of a locked door running for cover, Natalie who plays a part in pushing Josh over the edge, Zoe, the girl who lights up rooms but is caught in the crossfire, or Mr. Connor, the principal who'll literally go the extra mile to help kids get through torturous time.

Lockdown is a quick read, but I suspect it's chilling message will linger long after you've put it down, and so it should. Read it today.