CM . . .
. Volume XIII Number 21 . . . . June 8, 2007
Brenda Chapman’s third instalment of her Jennifer Bannon novels lets trouble lead the series’ 15-year-old title heroine, her best friend Ambie, and her younger sister Leslie to White Pine summer camp. Jennifer is already beset by a number of drastic changes in her domestic life: her mother has just remarried and moved away to California, leaving her father devastated by the loss of his now ex-wife. Jennifer’s boyfriend, Pete, has opted for college in Montreal rather than staying in Toronto. And life at White Pine Camp is not as idyllic as it should be. The staff members (including a handsome but inscrutable counsellor) seem to be involved in furtive after-dark activities, a few girls under Jennifer’s charge harbour secrets about their past, and, to top it all off, the food is inedible.
While the cover’s illustration suggests non-stop suspense, Where Trouble Leads does provide the comforting familiarity of the summer camp experience. Flirtation occurs between Jennifer and the charming Chad while Ambie remains clueless to the romantic overtures of another teenaged boy counsellor. Jennifer also works hard to win the trust of two campers: the withdrawn Cathy Wong, whose mother left her at camp while she grapples with spousal abuse, and the rebellious Roxie, who has no family at all and shuttles between foster homes.
In between teaching kids to swim and bonding with them, Jennifer follows a trail of clues to uncover the truth behind the camp staff’s activities (drug smuggling) and the true identity of the Chad, the counsellor (undercover cop). At the end of the story, Jennifer emerges from White Pine unscathed. Her family even takes Roxie with them as a temporary member of the Bannon family, and Jennifer returns home with relief.
This reviewer finds Jennifer at times too sensible and well-adjusted to all the upheaval in her life to be a credible teenager, and, despite Jennifer’s forebodings that “life is never going to be the same again,” few of the exciting events of Jennifer’s summer change her internally. Chapman has perhaps chosen to focus on the various strands of plot and social issues (divorce, spousal abuse, foster children) at the expense of character development. Moreover, readers new to the series may not understand the background of Jennifer’s past that is referenced throughout the text. Nevertheless, reluctant teen readers, or readers already fans of the Jennifer Bannon novels, will be rewarded by Chapman’s deft handling of clues, her detailed evocation of a Canadian setting (Springhills, Ontario, and the Georgian Bay area), and a likeable, unflappable heroine.
Ellen Wu is a student in the Master of Arts in Children's Literature program at Hollins University, in Roanoke, VA.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.