________________ CM . . . . Volume XV Number 14. . . .March 6, 2009


Perfect Revenge. (Orca Currents).

K.L. Denman.
Victoria, BC: Orca, 2009.
102 pp., pbk. & hc., $9.95 (pbk.), $16.95 (lib. bdg.).
ISBN 978-1-55469-102-9 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-55469-103-6 (lib. bdg.).

Grades 5-7 / Ages 10-12.

Review by Janet Grafton.

*** /4

Reviewed from Advance Reading Copy.



I start talking. I tell her everything that happened to me, and she listens. Really listens. When I'm done talking, I feel better but also a little worried. Is talking to someone like her yet another sign that life as I've known it is over?

"Sounds like that Rachel girl is really mean," Stella says. "Why would she do something like that to you?"

"I don't know," I sniff. "But I'll tell you this. She's going to pay. I don't know how yet, but I'll get her back."

Stella grins. I blink to avoid the flash off the metal but it doesn't happen this time. She looks at me sideways and says, "I know what you need."

"You do?" I ask.

"Oh yeah." She nods. In that gesture I find some hope. Her nod is so certain.

"So tell me," I say.

"You need to work a little magick," she says.

I stare at her. "Magick? You're making fun of me?"

"No. I wouldn't do that." She shakes her head. "I'm totally serious. I know some magick. My baba has been teaching me."

"I roll my eyes. "Your baba? What's that?"

"My grandmother," Stella says. "She's from the old country and she knows plenty."

"You are serious, aren't you?" I ask. "I mean, you actually believe in this stuff?"

"For sure I believe it. I've seen it work."


Popular and stylish, Lizzie Lane is sure of her place in the middle school social order: she's at the top. But in the world of adolescent intrigues, one act of pettiness is all it takes to shake Lizzie from that position. Her unkindness towards another girl, Rachel, rebounds with Rachel's revenge, which leads to Lizzie's being called a liar and a cheater. The fallout is more than just earning a week of detention in a smelly, airless room; Lizzie is ostracized by her former friends. With the collapse of her social life, Lizzie finds herself talking with Stella, the weird new girl. Lizzie recognizes this as social suicide, but Stella's belief in magick intrigues her, for all the wrong reasons: Lizzie has revenge against Rachel in mind. Throughout the course of the story, Stella helps Lizzie out of her rut by teaching her about the nature and the possibilities of magick. (A note on the spelling: the 'k' distinguishes Denman's reference to natural, earth-centred magick from magic tricks.)

     Geared at reluctant readers, Perfect Revenge is full of makeup, zits, crushes, Facebook, and fashion, with the constant jockeying for position in the social hierarchy of middle school taking the novel's forefront. But Denman has constructed more than a light-hearted diversion for readers. There is a literary sophistication to her story that will introduce readers to elements such as foreshadowing and metaphor. While the eyeshadow-palate-as-representative-of-social-spheres analogy tries too hard to appeal to a teen mentality, Denman is in control of her narrative. Lizzie's voice is consistent, and her gradual self-awareness is authentic and original: she is a wilfully clueless, unlikeable character with an overdeveloped sense of self-esteem, which makes the first-person narration interesting. Secondary characters such as Baba, who is kind and wise without being too clichéd or saccharine, are well developed, especially considering the short length of the story.

      The setting is contemporary and feels genuine, and the frequent contemporary culture references will ring true for this generation of young readers. 'Omigod' as a conjoined term needs to be outlawed from speech and literature, but thankfully Denman keeps the 'likes' that pock teenspeak to a minimum.

      Her take on the responsibility in engaging with magick is fresh, and the clear moral centre of the story comes off as palatable rather than heavy-handed, thanks in part to humour and to solid characterizations.

      Good-natured and well written, Perfect Revenge is a solid antidote to the sensational works for teens spawned in this Gossip Girl era.


Janet Grafton is a graduate student in the Master of Arts in Children's Literature program at the University of British Columbia.

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

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