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Volume VIII Number 12 . . . . February 15, 2002
It is so difficult for teenagers to find a comfortable place in the world where they are accepted and feel useful and empowered. Dayle and Amy are Manitoba high school students struggling with which group to join and how to support each other in friendship. Dayle has fallen in love with Keith and finds herself standing uneasily on the periphery of his group of loud risk-takers who drink and offend others with their careless, racist remarks. Suddenly, everyone's life is changed when Keith and his friend Pete pour gasoline on a bonfire that won't start. Both Pete and Dayle are very badly burned. Although Dayle survives, she must deal with painful physio, morphine induced dreams and becoming reconciled to her disfigured body. To everyone's horror, Pete succumbs to his injuries.
This excellent novel deals forthrightly with guilt, forgiveness and how our behaviour affects our families and friends. The ache of wrong choices crosses generations as we see Dayle's mother and beloved grandmother realizing that they have made poor choices in the past. Dayle regrets missing her Gram's last hours of life because she was too tired to go to the hospital. Pete dies before she can forgive him although she does spend time with him in the hospital learning how to play chess. As Dayle realizes that her father is only human, not a hero, she sees that his new wife and baby are not the ogres she had imagined. She is finally able to forgive her father for breaking up their family. In the end, she seems to understand her Gram's advice to fall in love with your friend, and the reader expects that in the future she will see how much her friend Stu loves her. Dayle is a sympathetic, well drawn heroine whose suffering and growth keep the reader turning pages. The descriptions of Dayle's horrific burn injuries and her slow recovery are grim and compelling. The sympathetic, yet firm, nurses and therapists are heroes who deal with the horror of burn accidents with tenderness and compassion. This is a powerful, moving process, which finds Dayle rising from the ashes like the Phoenix that Stu carves for her. Perhaps only Manitobans in the middle of a cold winter can understand the longing Dayle's family has for "the lake" and how cottage experiences ground families in what is really important in life: the love and friendship of others. Vivid description brings the lake and cottage alive, making this setting central to the novel. Some of the chapters bear dates which help readers to keep the time line of the story straight. Dayle's thoughts (in italics) clarify her feelings. Her dreams (also in italics) portray her real feelings and help to move the plot along. The ending, with Dayle's finding the strength to encourage Keith to go off to Waterloo and to accept her family as they are, is realistic and satisfying.
Joan Marshall is the teacher-librarian at Fort Richmond Collegiate in Winnipeg, MB.
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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.