CM . . .
. Volume XII Number 21 . . . . June 23, 2006
When a grade twelve boy reveals to her that he is Cyrano, Linda naturally assumes that he's the one who has left the gifts, including a ticket for the big school dance. She gets an ego-deflating surprise when she discovers that “C” is, in fact, another boy: shy Chad Sharp. (Cyrano tells Linda he thinks they have great ‘chats,' but he has no interest in doing more than that.) By the end of Chat Room, Linda has learned some important truths about communication and making friends.
Linda is not a fully-rounded, convincing character. Though quiet, she is otherwise a fairly typical, intelligent, grade nine student. So, it is hard to understand why she has no friends other than Janice, the “queen of the grumps.” This is especially true since Linda describes their friendship as one “only by default.” It is also hard to understand how Linda forgets about Chad Sharp even though they partner in a school activity and even though he stands right beside her through a whole basketball game. Her acceptance in the chat rooms is a liberating ego-builder. Still, it's surprising that Linda does not doubt that ‘Cyrano,' head of the student council and “one of the most popular guys in school,” would ask her to the dance.
Peripheral characters are sketchily drawn, but we learn that Janice behaves “Beastly” because she “knows people don't like [her].” By acting as though she doesn't “like them first… it doesn't hurt so bad when they reject [her].” Janice says all chat rooms are for “sickos, perverts, voyeurs, psychos.” Janice is sure that Linda will be hurt if she joins in. Linda thinks Janice is ridiculous. While Linda is surprised and somewhat disappointed in the end, this is largely the result of her own thoughtless assumptions. The conclusion to Chat Room probably makes for a realistic story, but this reader felt let down by Janice's dark foreshadowing: “While you gullible little innocents are blabbing your faces off online, the crazies lurk in the background, taking it all in. Then when you least expect it, they pounce, and it's lambs to the slaughter.”
One hopes that young readers would get the message that they should not be afraid to be themselves: they will find other people who enjoy their company. And, like so much of life, few things – or people – should be judged on first appearances.
Karen Rankin is a Toronto writer and editor of children's stories.
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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.