________________ CM . . . . Volume XIII Number 21 . . . . June 8, 2007


Demon in My View.

Tom Henighan.
Toronto, ON: Boardwalk Books/Dundurn Press, 2007.
175 pp., pbk., $12.99.
ISBN 978-1-55002-656-6.

Grades 7 and up / Ages 12 and up.

Review by Rachel Steen.

**½ /4


Jim White pulled the boy down in the shrubbery. "Take a good look at that place," he said. "You heard the voices, the ceremony. You know what the mutants do there? They perform sacrifices to those idols. They even claim to be connected with the old reptiles. You know what lineage is boy?" Jim smiled grimly. "Genetic inheritance, some would call it. The mutants claim their genes got mixed up with reptile genes that some scientists activated in the twenty-first century. They reject what's human in them, just because they can do things ordinary humans can't. They can read minds and move objects, things like that. They sacrifice ordinary humans to their master, to their idols. They claim it gives them power-like Satan himself. And Azmud is the worst of them."

It is the year 2099, and North America is in chaos after having been ravaged by war, terrorism and ecological destruction. Asian and European super powers rule the world, and the country which used to be "Canada" is now a lawless no-man's land – a place where marauding motorcycle gangs rule, and a secret society of mutants terrorizes the innocent with their practice. Toby Johnson's father is one of the old believers who clings to high moral values, but when he and their home are attacked, Toby embarks on a odyssey of biblical proportions, joined only by a mysterious black man to find help for his father.

     The latest offering by Red Maple-nominated Tom Henighan is proof that novels written for a young adult audience can be as complex and involved as their adult counterparts and are worth studying in greater detail.

     A retelling of the biblical book of Tobit, the journey takes centre stage in this novel, rather than the characters or an action driven plot. While the novel does leave the reader still thinking and questioning after it ends, it is not easily accessible to the average reader as an independent read.

     The biblical book on which Demon in My View is based is obscure, and without reading the author's note at the back, few will recognize it as a point of reference. The author's explanation of how the world arrived at this point is revealed both to the reader and to Toby primarily through a series of newspaper clippings, but, while some questions are cleared up, many others arise. There is generally too much reliance on the ability of the reader to draw inferences on who these characters are, and their significance to the story. Who is the black man really, and what is his purpose with Toby?
     As the story progresses, Toby seems more like a pawn in a battle of good and evil than a central character, and a lack of true character development never truly gives the reader reason to relate to or care about these people or their fates. Instead, they seem more like sacrifices for the experience of the journey and for the inevitable showdown between Azmud and Jim White in what amounts to a fairly anti-climactic and contrived ending.

     That being said, the novel is worth a deeper examination on other levels, the most obvious being a text to text comparison with the biblical book on which it is based. The author note at the back of the book offers interesting insight and contains some excellent background which helps to clarify some of the references which are not immediately apparent in the text. Thematically, this book can be linked to discussions of current global threats such as ecological destruction and terrorism, and students could be encouraged to imagine their own vision of possible futures stemming from these threats.

     As an independent read, Demon in My View will find a limited audience, but the narrative is swift and flows well, and the book should be considered as an excellent candidate for read-aloud in an intermediate/high school classroom.

Recommended with reservations.

Rachel Steen is the Elementary/YA selection manager at S&B Books in Mississauga, ON.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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