CM . . . . Volume XVII Number 35. . . .May 13, 2011.
B Negative. (Orca Soundings).
Victoria, BC: Orca, 2011.
125 pp., pbk. & hc., $9.95 (pbk.), $16.95 (RLB).
ISBN 978-1-55469-841-7 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-55469-842-4 (RLB).
Grades 9-12 / Ages 14-17.
Review by Erin Walker.
Reviewed from Advance Reading Copy.
He sticks his foot out and jabs me in the leg. “C’mon Paddy. What? What’s it going to be?”
He’s either totally stunned or he’s taunting me.
I can’t stand the guy. I can’t even stand the thought of him thinking I can stand him. I wipe my mouth with the back of my hand. I sort of smile. Tara gives me that little headshake again.
“Neither, actually,” I say to him. “I’m joining the Army.”
Eighteen-year-old Paddy Armstrong can’t stand Anthony, his annoying, lazy, and self-absorbed stepfather. When Anthony badgers Paddy to declare what his post-high school plans are, Paddy announces he’s joining the army—a response he knows will irritate Anthony. While Paddy’s announcement successfully ruffles his stepfather’s feathers, the news also upsets his mother, his younger siblings, his girlfriend, and his bandmates. The one person he knows will approve is his father John, a retired naval officer. Responsible, supportive, and “the world’s most devoted Dad,” John is the exact opposite of Anthony. But when Paddy’s blood type is revealed, the strong father-son bond they share is called into question. Paddy must confront the fact that the only person he’s ever been able to count on is not his real father. An even bigger blow is the realization that Anthony is not his stepfather, but, in fact, his biological father.
B Negative is the latest title by acclaimed YA author Vicki Grant. This is one of several hi-lo novels penned by Grant in the “Orca Sounding” series. Once again, Grant offers a fast-paced and compelling plot written in simple prose while expertly capturing the voice of an older teen male. Male readers especially will connect with Paddy’s thoughts and feelings and the father-son relationships Grant explores. What’s more, Grant’s clever plays on the words in the title, B Negative, add depth to the story and call attention to the underlying themes.
B Negative ends on a tentative yet hopeful note. “I’m hit by how weird this is, how hard this is going to be, how much we’re all going to have to forgive or forget or maybe just ignore,” says Paddy. The revelation of Paddy’s paternity does not automatically mend his strained relationship with Anthony; however, as memories of their positive interactions materialize, Paddy begins to realize how unfair he’s been to him. This is a satisfying ending, but one that also leaves much open to discussion. Readers will find themselves pondering how they might proceed if faced with a similar situation.
Erin Walker is the Children’s Services Librarian at the Bradford West Gwillimbury Public Library.
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