CM . . .
. Volume XII Number 14 . . . . March 17, 2006
Toronto, ON: Viking Canada, 2006.
192 pp., cloth, $20.00.
7-11 / Ages 12-16.
Review by Jen Waters.
He stopped in the
middle of the small wooden bridge spanning a creek that cut through
the park. "Do you know what I think of every time I cross over
Of course I didn't
know, but I didn't think he expected an answer.
"I think of
bodies. A river full of bloated human bodies, dumped in a river,
so thick that they formed a blockage across the river where it went
under a bridge. And people had to haul those bodies out, drag them
up onto the shore and dump them back into the river on the other
side of the bridge to stop that log-jam of human beings from causing
a flood. And each time they pulled out a body, another drifted down
the river to take its place.
I stared down at the creek. There was a grocery cart embedded in
the mud of the bank, and a white plastic bag, caught in the current,
twisted and turned as it floated along with the current and then
disappeared under our feet. But as Jack stood there, staring down,
I knew he hadn't seen the plastic bag. He was seeing those bodies
floating by … He was seeing Hell.
When Ian takes a volunteer job working at a soup kitchen, a requirement
to complete his high school Civics (Social Studies) class, he never
imagined that it would change his outlook on life. A spoiled rich
kid from the suburbs, his only motivation is not completing the class
but rather being rewarded with a car from his workaholic parents.
As he is walking to the soup kitchen on that first day, a near mugging
brings him into contact with a homeless man called "Sarge"
who saves him from being robbed. Ian meets Sarge, whose real name
is Jacques, or Jack, a short time later again at the soup kitchen.
Upon finding out from Mac (the owner and operator of the kitchen)
that Jack was once in the Armed Forces, Ian interviews Jack. Ian's
class is studying Canadian peacekeepers, and his teacher has coerced
him into conducting the interview. During his time in the Armed Forces,
Jack served in a number of countries including Rwanda. This brings
up a whole host of questions that Ian has to answer himself when Jack
is shocked to find out that Ian knows nothing about Rwanda.
researching the topic, Ian discovers the terrible genocide that was
previously unknown to him, and the next day in class the teacher points
out that, while the teens might be aware of the Holocaust, there are
many other relatively recent acts of genocide that have occurred worldwide:
the genocide of Armenians, Cambodians, Yugoslavians, and the 800,000
Tutsis in Rwanda. While some of the teens make light of this news,
others are dumbfounded: "800,000 people in a 100 day period?
That can't be right - we would have heard about it!" one boy
says, and this truly highlights the relevance of the novel. There
are likely many teens who have not yet learned about any acts of genocide
outside of the Holocaust, and, while this book will be a good teaching
tool for Social Studies classes, it will also be of great interest
to teens who want to learn more about world events.
makes a very intelligent move in comparing Rwanda to the events of
September 11, 2001 as Jack says that Rwanda was equivalent to two
planes crashing into two towers every day for 265 straight days. Moreover,
for the United Nation workers in Rwanda, "it was like watching
the planes crashing and going to the airport and telling them not
to let any more planes leave, but nobody listened to us and two more
planes took off and crashed. And we went back to warn them and another
two planes took off, and two more the next day, and the next…"
This a relevant parallel for Walters to draw, because 9/11 is probably
the only tragic event that is recent enough for teens to recognize.
A 16-year-old today would only have been four-years-old in 1994 when
the genocide in Rwanda occurred, and the other events happened long
ago enough that they would not even enter a teen's limited frame of
will certainly love this book, but one wonders if teens will like
it as well. At times, Shattered becomes a moralistic tearjerker
as Walters attempts to tackle a few too many issues. In addition to
genocide, homelessness and alcoholism are addressed, as well as government
cruelty (Ian's housekeeper and nanny Berta witnessed the "disappearance"
of her family in Guatemala). There are many difficult questions asked
that cannot be answered, such as how the United Nations was also at
fault in Rwanda, but one has to give Walters credit for bringing these
questions into the minds of teens so they can research them more on
their own time. It was an interesting choice to introduce the topic
of genocide through a homeless man who experienced Rwanda and will
never be the same, a man who is treated like a reject rather than
a hero upon returning from war. With a foreword from General Romeo
Dallaire, Commander for the United Nations mission to Rwanda and author
of Shake Hands With The Devil: The Failure of Humanity in Rwanda,
Shattered reads somewhat like a starter course to that book,
and, while often didactic, it offers a stimulating read to teens who
want to know more about some of the darker hours of world history.
Waters is the Teen Services Librarian at the Red Deer Public Library
in Red Deer, AB.
on this title or this review, send mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
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