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Evelyn Lau

Toronto, Harper & Collins, 1989. 341pp, paper, $5.95
ISBN 0-00-215984-8. CIP

Grades 10 and up/Ages 15 and up
Reviewed by Susan E. Fowler.

Volume 18 Number 1
1990 January

Vancouverite Evelyn Lau, a daughter of Chinese immigrants, had, by age thirteen, made her high school honour roll and was an award-winning pub­lished writer. By the age of fourteen, she had run away from home, to begin two years "on the streets." Runaway is based on the journal Evelyn wrote as she attempted to cope with her new world of drugs, prostitution, psychiatric wards, and two suicide attempts.

Evelyn was not the victim of blatant sexual or physical abuse, as is often the case with teen runaways. Her home environment, however, was extremely repressive, and her literary ambitions were a constant source of conflict with her parents, who wanted her to be a doctor. A short prologue describes a calm and gentle father with whom Evelyn was very close until he became unemployed and withdrawn when she was ten. A domineering mother restricted Evelyn's out-of-school life to studying and housework, and she reached her teens feeling unloved and unable to satisfy her parents or anyone else.

The writing, which was her secret release at home, eventually became Evelyn's salvation. As she moved from experimentation with alcohol, pot and acid to prostitution and eventually to methadone and tranquillizer addiction. Evelyn remained aware of the fact that her life-style was affecting her ability to write. That awareness, plus some help from a psychiatrist who specialized in "street kids," enabled her eventually to get off the streets, although there has been no reconciliation with her family.

Younger adolescents may have diffi­culty interpreting the emotional struggles Evelyn describes in a story which, because it is a journal, seems often to be disjointed. However, her description of life on the streets will prove interesting and educational for all teens, as well as adults who deal in any way with teens.

Susan E. Fowler, Centennial S.S., Belleville, Ont.
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