CM . . .
. Volume XIII Number 10 . . . . January 4, 2007
Zoe Kendall is a high school senior who lives in the lap of luxury, has good friends and has a great boyfriend who shares her passion for rally driving. But all is not well in the Kendall household. Kendall's parents are on the verge of splitting up, her brother who suffers from ADHD has been kicked out of McGill, and her mother has Zoe's entire life planned out for her. To compensate for the stress her brother has caused her parents, Zoe tries to please her mother, laying aside her own ambitions to become an automotive engineer. Soon, her application to university has been fast-tracked, she's having a tour of a university medical school, and she's visiting her mother's old sorority house. The pressure builds as Zoe fails to be honest with herself, her mother, or her boyfriend Adam.
It is refreshing to read a story featuring a healthy teenage relationship and a boyfriend who is genuinely caring and supportive. Adam does serve as a foil, however, and as Zoe spirals, he remains steadfast and ultimately draws the plot to a happy conclusion.
While the dialogue is rich and expressive, the vocabulary can be dated at times. For example, one is unlikely to hear a teen utter the following sentence "...I've got some pretty rad moves of my own..." or "she busted a move any rapper would have been proud of." I've also never heard a teenager call shoes "sneakers," a term that belongs solidly in the eighties.
The "out of control" metaphor for Zoe's life is also over the top. Phrases like, "she was about to really lose it," "things were totally out of control," "she'd been out of control with Zoe," "gained some semblance of self-control," "her life had been hijacked and was now out of her control," and "life had taken an unexpected detour" abound. These quotes can all be found within eleven pages. It seems a little heavy handed particularly when combined with the constant dream sequences featuring rally cars going out of control and crashing. It is also unfortunate that no real car racing occurs to the very end of the book.
I found Zoes' relationship with her mother to be contrived. Zoe constantly feels guilty, apologizes, and puts her own needs second, and she makes absurd comments on how good it is to feel close to her mother. This seems unrealistic in light of the fact that her mother is forbidding her to do anything with cars, which is her supposed to be Zoe's passion in life. One would expect a reaction to this. I also wonder why the author chose to set the story in a wealthy family who live in a "palatial" home and who are "people of influence." This doesn't ring true with the majority of readers and brings to mind popular teen television series set in exotic American locales. Furthermore, Zoe is also characterized as a lithe girl who eats lots of junk food and never gains an ounce. The overarching message of the novel seems to be the importance of being true to oneself and following one's dreams, but it is played out by a good skinny rich girl who always listens to her mother and doesn't have sex with her boyfriend.
Zoe's family's wealth also doesn't add anything to the plot and makes her mother's obsession with her future career ring even more hollow. Her mother explains how years ago she found herself pregnant with two children, no career, married to a lawyer and unable to put the children in daycare because "it just wasn't done in those days." This doesn't really make sense considering the present day setting means that "those days" would be the early nineties. Teens reading this novel would be just a bit younger than Zoe, and, therefore, as children of the early nineties, the majority of them would be familiar with having a mother in the workforce.
Overall, I cannot recommend this book. The message is moralistic without substance or circumstance to make this seem reasonable. Furthermore, the protagonist, Zoe, simply seems like an adult's fantasy of what a teen is like.
Alicia Jinkerson is a Children’s Librarian with North Vancouver District Public Library and a former elementary school teacher.
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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.