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


Exposure. (Orca Soundings).

Patricia Murdoch.
Victoria, BC: Orca, 2006.
102 pp., pbk. & cl., $9.95 (pbk), $16.95 (cl.).
ISBN 1-55143-493-8 (pbk.), ISBN 1-55143-523-3 (cl.).

Grades 9-12 / Ages 14-17.

Review by Andrea Szilagyi.

***½ /4


At the break, Sammy and I turned the corner at the bottom of the stairs and almost collided with Dana. She was leaning against the wall, staring at the ground. Her shoulders were hunched, her hair was pulled back in a ponytail, and she didn't have any makeup on.

I felt a twinge of pity for her.

"Are you okay?" Sammy asked her.

Dana paused for a moment. She almost smiled at Sammy; then she looked at me. Her face tightened with anger and she stood straight up.

"You know, no matter what happens in my life, it's still better than yours. If I were you, I'd kill myself."

I was too stunned to move. The violence of her words ripped my chest open. But a funny thing happened. I didn't panic. Instead, my brain slowed. Things were clear. I felt like a huge stone figure from the time of the ancient Greek monsters. My arms were strong, my hands were huge.

Julie is fed up with Dana's making fun of her weight and calling her a loser. When Julie's older brother, Zack, brings home a digital camera with evidence of Dana's being in a compromising situation, Julie has only one thing on her mind: revenge. The situation gets complicated, however, and Julie scrambles to do the right thing, realizing that, ultimately, revenge does not give her the satisfying feeling she was expecting.

     Exposure has both a swift-moving and believable plot, with complex, well-rounded characters to whom readers can relate. The challenges these characters face (insecurity, bullying, loyalty to friends, problems at home, etc.) are credible, and the ending leaves the reader with a feeling of satisfaction and hope. The ending also emphasizes the characters' development, thereby giving them more depth as well. On a grander scale, Murdoch's characters and their dilemmas embody themes of friendship, bullying, revenge, self esteem, substance abuse, and family relations, to name a few.

     The main characters appear to be in the middle years of high school as Dana brags about hanging out with the guys in grade 12, including Julie's brother, Zack. Exposure is written from Julie's perspective, in first person, and is obviously a recent publication, marked by modern technological references. For example, Julie finds the digital camera, takes out the memory card, and burns a CD of the photographs. Including these recent technologies makes the book relevant to today's teens, creating another point of access for readers, in addition to the characters, themes, and dilemmas presented.

     Though some may see this as another teenage problem novel, Exposure is an excellent book for reluctant readers. With a strong story, straightforward language and interesting, plausible characters, this book deals with real situations and emotions that any high school student might encounter.

Highly Recommended.

Andrea Szilagyi is a graduate student studying children's literature at the University of British Columbia.

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

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