CM . . .
. Volume XI Number 19 . . . . May 27, 2005
Frances is a typical teenage girl: a high school student who is interested in art, works at a convenience store, and has a hockey-player boyfriend who doesn’t care for her as much as he should. Her life is very ordinary until the day that the mysterious Devin walks into her store, buys a chocolate bar, and offers to help her with her drawing, claiming to be the long-lost rich son of a local wildlife artist. Frances is intrigued by this boy, who is supposedly both a musician and artist, who makes her laugh and who buys her lavish gifts. But something is rotten in the city of Lockeport: Devin always seems to show up when Frances is least expecting him; his story about his father doesn’t quite pan out; and Frances’ boyfriend Leo becomes unjustly jealous of Frances and refuses to talk to her.
The situation deteriorates even further as Devin begins to email Frances, leaves photographs he has taken of her on her locker at school, and delivers gifts to her house. While the reader and Frances’ friend Kyla quickly realize Frances has a stalker, Frances seems to be the last one to want to admit this. As she tells her friend, “Look, the guy’s not a stalker. He’s just pathetic. He’s never done anything violent. And anyway, even if he did, I’m a big girl. I could probably take him.” Inevitably, Devin does become violent and holds Frances hostage in the convenience store one night. He has prepared a “romantic” dinner for her and honestly believes that she wants to be with him. When her struggle to escape suggests otherwise, he settles on the belief that, if he can’t have her, he’ll have to kill her and then himself. The story ends on a positive note as Frances defends herself against Devin with a charcoal pencil and is rescued by her erstwhile boyfriend Leo.
Dead-End Job is suspenseful yet believable and would be a quick read for reluctant teenage girls. The stalker scenario is realistically plotted and a good subject for a hi-lo book as this situation is one that may be (unfortunately) experienced by some young women. While many stalker relationships do not reach the dramatic conclusion that is seen in Dead-End Job, it might be a useful lesson for those who are nearing such a situation in their own personal lives.
The loose ends are tied up nicely in an epilogue, something that some of the other “Orca Soundings” books could benefit from. Frances has been very affected by her traumatic event; she wakes up screaming most nights, and, while she is scared, she also asserts that she must continue on with her life and go to art school as previously planned. As a character, Frances is very realistically drawn as, although she does not immediately realize Devin is a dangerously disturbed young man, she does eventually realize how naïve she was. “I felt sad that I hadn’t been smarter,” she thinks when she is fearing for her life in the convenience store. Grant skillfully writes a story which could easily have been moralistic but instead acts as in interesting story which provides a warning to those teenage girls who are having relationship problems.
Jen Waters is a new MLIS graduate from the University of British Columbia who will soon be the Teen Services Librarian at Red Deer Public Library in Red Deer, AB.
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