________________ CM . . . . Volume XII Number 21 . . . . June 23, 2006


Crush. (Orca Soundings).

Carrie Mac.
Victoria, BC: Orca, 2006.
106 pp., pbk. & cl., $9.95 (pbk), $16.95 (cl.).
ISBN 1-55143-526-8 (pbk.), ISBN 1-55143-521-7 (cl.).

Grades 8-11 / Ages 13-16.

Review by Lisa Doucet.

**½ /4


"I'm Nat by the way."


Her grip is firm and warm and she holds onto my hand for almost as long as Maira did on the plane. Maybe it's a Brooklyn thing. She's kind of gazing at me, in a weird way. Another weird thing-a really weird thing-is that I don't want her to let go.

"So, Hope." She lets go. "See you around?"

I nod, not sure what to say. She whistles for Clocker, who's curled up on Joy's very expensive chaise lounge, and they leave. I shake my head at Daisy, who's whining at the door, already missing her new buddy.

"What was that I ask?" I ask, completely bewildered. Daisy lies down, nose touching the door, and whines. "Just exactly what was that?"

What a let-down! When Hope first learned of her parents' plan to celebrate their thirtieth year of togetherness (their "non-wedding") by going to Thailand to build a school, she was suitably enthusiastic about the idea. However, that was before she discovered that she, herself, was not included in this plan. While her hippie parents would be sharing this wonderful life experience, she would be stuck with her older sister, Joy, in Brooklyn. And shallow, self-centred Joy is about as un-hippie-like as it gets! Even staying at her hippie commune home for the summer would have been more acceptable to Hope, but her parents were unwilling to even consider that as an option after the regrettable incident with 24-year-old Orion.

     So Hope finds herself on a plane bound for New York. Once there, the first friend she meets is a big yellow mutt named Clocker who belongs to a carefree young woman named Nat. At first, Hope is confused about her reaction to Nat, until she finally acknowledges the truth to herself: she has a crush on Nat. This realization raises lots of questions for Hope. Fortunately, by this time, she has moved in with the couple for whom she is babysitting, Larissa and Maira, and they are able to support her and help answer some of those questions. Ultimately, however, she alone must find the courage to accept this new discovery and to take the frightening step of letting Nat know how she feels.

     This is author Carrie Mac's second entry in the “Orca Soundings” series. This series offers reluctant and/or struggling teen readers short, straightforward stories that deal with issues that are relevant to contemporary youth. In Crush, a young woman confronts the tumultuous question of her sexuality, asking herself many very candid and realistic questions: Am I gay just because I think about kissing a girl? What defines "queerness," and what if I don't want to be? These direct, perfectly normal questions will undoubtedly intrigue young adult readers, whether or not they are questioning their own sexual identity. Furthermore, the various characters that feature in the story are quirky and engaging, and the relationship that Hope shares with her parents is refreshing. Her nonchalant descriptions of commune life as well as her slightly mocking yet totally affectionate references to her hippie parents heighten the book's originality and appeal.

     Of course, working within the constraints imposed by the "hi-low" format limited the author's ability to delve into any of the issues raised in any real depth. The fact that Hope was able to come to terms with this new bit of self-awareness with such relative ease and that she seemed to make such a swift, smooth transition from "questioning" to full acceptance felt rather inauthentic and too neatly wrapped up. Furthermore, Joy figured so little in the actual story that it was, in fact, frustrating that her selfishness and rebelliousness were so vividly depicted initially, but she then virtually disappeared as a character. However, given the structure and function of this series, this book achieves the goal of providing a provocative storyline with high teen appeal. It will be a worthy addition to the series which is, itself, a welcome and valuable one for any public or school library that seeks to offer books that will entice less confident readers.


Lisa Doucet is a children's bookseller at Woozles Bookstore in Halifax, NS.

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

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