________________CM . . . . Volume VIII Number 2 . . . . September 21, 2001

cover Lean Mean Machines.

Michele Marineau. Translated by Susan Ouriou.
Calgary, AB: Red Deer Press, 2000/1998.
127 pp., pbk., $9.95.
ISBN 0-88995-230-2.  

Subject Headings:
First loves-Juvenile fiction.
Secrecy-Juvenile fiction.
Self-acceptance-Juvenile fiction.

Grades 6-9 / Ages 11-14.

Review by Carol Marion.

*** /4


    "As soon as I got home, I headed straight for the garage. Suddenly I couldn't wait to fix that wobbly wheel that had been giving me trouble. At that moment, I felt a great, a huge, an extraordinary affection for bikes. Unlike girls, bikes don't get moods." (page 51)

Fifteen-year-old Jeremy is confused. He is confused by Tanya, his longtime friend who suddenly becomes cold, aloof and dismissive. He is confused by Laure, the new girl who has taken over his spare locker at school and treats him like a dirty pair of gym socks. But he is also intrigued by the frequent fear and doubt he glimpses in her eyes.
    What made her to transfer from the prestigious Great Pines Academy partway through the school year?
    Why does she snub those around her like she is better than they are?
    Why does she leave school each day with the snobbish Mathilde and Anne-Sophie, walking all the way to their posh neighborhood only to retrace her steps after bidding them farewell?
    Why does she avoid her new friends on weekends, pretending to escape to the country to her d-i-v-i-n-e boyfriend Fabian and her beloved horse Caramel?
    Why does she surprise Jeremy in his own kitchen one Saturday, without makeup and wearing tattered clothes?
    And most of all, why does she look "more like a trapped animal than a radiant lover" when she starts dating Christian Tougas, a soccer-teammate that Jeffrey has always considered "vicious, dangerous, a hypocrite, and a liar". (page 44)
    As Jeremy slowly untangles the mysterious web that envelops Laure's past, he begins to see beyond the facade she has created for herself. But he must tread carefully or risk losing Tanya's friendship altogether just when he realizes it is changing into something more.
    Originally written in French by award-winning Montreal native Michele Marineau and published under the title Velos n'ont pas d'etats d'ame, which received an honorable mention from the Prix Alvine-Belisle, Lean Mean Machines is a story of friendship and earned trust amidst teenage anguish and despair. It is not a sports story, as the cover might indicate. Indeed, the cover may discourage some readers from reaching for it, a deterrent that would be to their loss. Most teens will not experience a world turned upside-down to the extent that Laure does in this novel, but they will certainly relate to her problems.

     "Laure feels like she's sinking in quicksand. It's getting harder and harder to move, dragging behind her the weight of her lies and the fictional world she has made up. Sometimes she thinks she has only herself to blame. It's not as though anyone asked her to lie. She should have told the truth right from the start. But no sooner does the thought cross her mind than she banishes it in horror. Tell the whole truth? No way. She'd die of shame." (page 38)
Chapters are written alternately from Jeremy's and Laure's perspective, a strategy that effectively enables the reader to get a glimpse into each of the characters' thoughts and feelings. Somewhat irritating is the switch between the present and past tenses to help differentiate between
    As in the Governor General's award-winning The Road to Chlifa (1995), Marineau and English translator Susan Ouriou have once again teamed up to create a teen novel with a heroine that will inspire readers to find inner strength to resolve their own problems and a hero whose unswerving friendship reinforces that struggles need not be born alone.


Carole Marion is the Youth Services Librarian at Calgary Public Library. Her responsibilities include coordinating the system's two annual reading games and author visits for children and teens. She has been working with youth and their caregivers for over fifteen years.

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

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Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364