CM Magazine: Impossible.
________________ CM . . . . Volume XXIV Number 28. . . .March 23, 2018


Impossible. (Orca Soundings).

Jocelyn Shipley.
Victoria, BC: Orca, 2018.
123 pp., pbk., pdf & epub, $9.95 (pbk.).
ISBN 978-1-4598-1556-8 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-4598-1557-5 (pdf), ISBN 978-1-4598-1558-2 (epub).

Grades 7 and up / Ages 12 and up.

Review by Karyn Miehl.

*** /4

Reviewed from Advance Reading Copy.



I pace around some more. It would be so easy to slip out for groceries. There’s a 24/7 convenience story, the Ready Go, right on our corner.

Violet doesn’t sleep through the night, but she never wakes up before two or three AM. I could be back in fifteen minutes max. That’s no longer than I leave her alone when I go down to the laundry room.

So what’s the difference if I head to the store instead?

No, no, no. Can’t do that.

I am not going out and leaving my kid alone. It’s illegal and dangerous. What if there’s a fire?

I try to distract myself by cleaning up the kitchen.

But then the mad cravings start. I want chocolate. I want ice cream. I want cigarettes. Yeah, I know I shouldn’t smoke. And I did quit when I got pregnant. But it was easy then. Smoking made me puke. Tonight I have this strong desire to light up again.

I tidy Violet’s toys, fold her laundry and set out a clean onesie in case she’s wet in the night. I used up the last of the diapers after her bath, so I look in the closet for a new one. And don’t find any.

Oh shit! I mean, like, literally, right? I was sure we had lots on hand. Now I really do need to go to the store, even though diapers are ridiculously expensive at the Ready Go.

But still, I shouldn’t leave Violet along.

Maybe I could call Big Bad Betty. She’s this old Korean lady down on the fourth floor. Her real name is Kim Soon hee. Besides Wade and Dekker, the building manager’s assistant, she’s my only actual friend here.

Betty sometimes watches Violet for me. But nah. It’s too late. Almost midnight. I’ll just have to take my chances.

My shorts look okay where I wiped off the spit up, but now I notice some on my shirt. Don’t have anything else clean, so I pull on a new tank top I was saving for special, lime green with a shiny silver butterfly on the front.

I check to see that Violet’s sleeping soundly before throwing my keys, phone and wallet into a cloth shopping bag.

Then I lock the door and run.


Impossible, a young adult novel written by Jocelyn Shipley, is a fast read with a storyline that zips along. The book opens with teen mom Jemma caring for her young daughter, feeling the exhaustion that goes along with parenting and working, and dealing with the heat wave blanketing the city. Right from the start, this novel offers opportunities for the reader to make inferences, such as when Jemma narrates, “I push the guilt from my mind” (p. 3), and that she sees a party that brings “back memories I’d rather forget” (p. 3). Why does she feel guilty? What does she feel guilty about? What happened at this party that she doesn’t want to think about? The reader is drawn in right away to Jemma’s situation, to her relationship with her brother, Wade, to the decisions she has to make, and the consequences she must face as a result of her decisions. Chapter two continues with tension as Jemma, having left her baby home alone to go to the store, witnesses a murder, a drive by shooting, and sees someone she knows driving the vehicle. Jemma is torn between confessing to the police what she has seen and keeping it quiet as she, herself, could get in trouble for leaving her child home alone, unsupervised.

      What I like about this novel, aside from the interesting and fast paced story, is that Jemma’s being a teen mom isn’t glamorized in any way. Throughout the novel, Jemma tries to be responsible and do the right thing, but she faces internal conflict along the way. Her love for her daughter is clear; young Violet is the center of Jemma’s world. The reader learns how, earlier, as an impressionable 15-year old, Jemma made some bad choices, one of which included becoming involved with the controlling and abusive Razor, an older teen involved in illegal dealings (drugs and porn). After much emotional turmoil and further run ins with Razor, Jemma does the right thing regarding the murder; then her conscience can rest easy, and she can live more peacefully, focusing on being a good parent to her daughter.


Karyn Miehl, a mother of two and a secondary school English teacher, lives in Kingsville, ON.

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