CM . . .
. Volume XVII Number 6. . . .October 8, 2010
Definitely Not Camelot.
Kimberly Joy Peters.
Montreal, PQ: Lobster Press, 2010.
190 pp., pbk., $10.95.
Grades 8-11 / Ages 13-16.
Review by Lisa Doucet.
Reviewed from Advance Reading Copy.
I didn't know many of the people at the tryouts in the gymnasium. There were several younger girls I'd seen in the halls, a few seniors and two girls from my class, Amanda and Destiny. As much as I was beginning to appreciate the story of Camelot, I was kind of wishing that Mrs. Emrich had chosen a musical with more female parts. There seemed to be far more girls than guys at the audition, and the girls would probably all want the part of the queen. Fleetingly, I wondered whether any of them had written the nasty note I'd found on my locker.
On the other hand, there didn't seem to be very many guys trying out, even though there were so many roles for them. And, as Connor had quipped, they were going to get to play-flight with toy swords, practically every boy's dream.
I did know Amanda and Destiny, but not well. Both of them had been in Oliver the year before, and the word around school was that Destiny was quite serious about becoming a professional actress.
I was just deciding where to sit when Taiton came in. The sign-up sheet had been removed long before I'd remembered to look for his name on it, and I hadn't run into him in the halls since that day when he'd told me about the rumor.
I worked my way toward him, struck once again by the warmth of his smile.
"Just the girl I wanted to see," he said. "I have news!"
As her Grade 11 school year begins, Ashley braces herself for what could be a very challenging semester. Much has happened in her life over the course of the summer, between her break-up with Brandon, her long-time boyfriend and the start, and end, of her fledgling modelling career. These things seem to be the source of a surprising amount of gossip amongst her peers, and Ashley wishes she wasn't under such public scrutiny. As if all of that isn't enough, her greatest worries are for her mother who is preparing to undergo treatment for breast cancer. Given the situation with her mom, Ashley decides to withdraw from the exchange program that she had been looking forward to for so long, and she selflessly convinces her best friend Caitlyn to go in her place. If only that didn't mean that Caitlyn was going to be so far away from her.
Never one to wallow in self-pity, Ashley throws herself back into things with a vengeance. She decides to take on new challenges and tries out for the school's production of King Arthur, surprising herself when she lands one of the lead roles. However, not everyone supports her selection, and she soon finds herself the target of vicious rumours and more malicious gossip. Of course, she can't turn to her mother for guidance at this time as she is struggling to deal with the terrible side effects of her chemotherapy. Wanting to help and support her mother, Ashley begins researching various natural remedies and supplements that could help her. Ashley becomes frustrated and angry when her efforts seem to be in vain because her mother refuses to even give them a chance. As Ashley tries to cope with the stresses at home and at school on her own, she soon finds herself relying on some of the pills she had picked up for her mother to try: pills to help her sleep, pills to help her calm down, pills to take the edge off, pills to perk her up. When she starts to fall behind in her classes and forgetting lines in the play, it's not long before she reaches the point where she is forced to accept that she can't do it all alone. And nor does she have to.
Like Caitlyn from Peters' other books, Ashley is a very relatable teen whose determination to be strong and deal with things on her own is admirable even as teen readers will recognize her need to let the people who want to help her do so. The author does a commendable job of portraying the wide range of emotions that a teen who is faced with a parent's serious illness might experience: fear and uncertainty; anxiety; helplessness; anger. She also adeptly captures the high school environment in which rumours and jealousies and misunderstandings can all lead to a situation in which a young person quickly feels like s/he is losing control. Ashley never loses sight of all the good things in her life, and, in spite of her difficulties, she is still a positive example for teen girls who similarly find themselves in situations where things seem to be spiralling out of control. Overall, Ashley's story is a hopeful one and provides readers with a believable protagonist and sound advice for navigating troubled times. Whether readers have read the preceding book, Posing as Ashley, or are meeting her for the first time, they will most certainly enjoy the experience.
Lisa Doucet is Co-Manager of Woozles Children's Bookstore in Halifax, NS.
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