________________ CM . . . . Volume XIII Number 10 . . . . January 4, 2007


Saving Grace. (Orca Currents).

Darlene Ryan.
Victoria, BC: Orca, 2006.
97 pp., pbk. & cl., $9.95 (pbk.), $16.95 (cl.).
ISBN 1-55143-508-X (pbk.), ISBN 1-55143-668-X (cl.).

Subject Headings:
Teenage Mothers-Juvenile fiction.
Kidnapping-Juvenile fiction.
Runaway teenagers-Juvenile fiction.

Grades 9-12 / Ages 14-17.

Review by Saache Heinrich.

***1/2 /4


I ran across the bare front yard—and what kind of home for a kid didn’t even have any grass—shoved the car seat onto the front seat of the truck and jumped in.

“Go!” I yelled at Justin.

He stared at me with his mouth hanging open all stupid. “Jesus, Evie,” he said. “What the hell did you do?”

“Will you just drive? C’mon. Move the goddamn truck. Go!”

“Go where?”

I leaned across the car seat and smacked his arm. “I don’t care. Just get us out of here now.”

Finally. Justin put the truck in gear and pulled away from the curb. I frigged with the seat belt, trying to thread it through the bottom part of the car seat. The baby was still asleep. I got the belt buckled, sat back and fastened my own. We got to the stop sign where the road from the subdivision crossed the old highway. “That way,” I said, pointing to the right.

Justin looked over at me. Then he looked at the baby. But he turned and started up the old river road. “You said you just wanted to see her,” he said.

“So I lied.”

“Evie, you can’t just take someone else’s kid.”

I reached into the car seat and stroked the baby’s cheek with one finger. It was the softest thing I had ever felt. Bits of dark hair, the same color as mine, stuck out from under her pink hat. “I didn’t steal someone else’s kid, Justin,” I said. “She’s mine and I’m keeping her.”


Five months after giving her baby up for adoption at the insistence of her father, 15-year-old Evie breaks into the metal box hidden in her father’s closet to find the adoption papers. Armed with the adoptive parents’ full names, she goes online at the library to find an address. For two weeks, she watches the baby, at first to ensure she is okay. Then, after deciding that she could do a better job raising the child, Evie, armed with the savings her mother had put away for her education, convinces an unwitting Justin, the father of her child, to drive her to the Hansens where she then snatches the baby at the first chance. The story begins at this point as Evie jumps into the car with the baby in a car seat and demands Justin hit the road. But, while Evie is filled with conviction, Justin is a reluctant participant, and they head for Montreal on the back roads in order to avoid police so that they can start a new life with their baby.

     In flashbacks, readers find out that Evie first met Justin at a party at the age of fourteen, and he, seventeen. They keep their relationship a secret, even from her best friend. When Evie discovers she’s pregnant and refuses to have an abortion, her father insists that she’ll put the baby up for adoption because “there is no way I’m letting you throw away your life over something like this.” With her mother dead, her father wanting to forget and put the pregnancy behind them, a best friend whose mother disapproves of her, and her baby’s father believing that they no longer have rights to the child, Evie has no support.

     As they travel along, the reader realizes how ill-equipped Evie is, emotionally, intellectually and financially, to handle the demands and stress ensuing from the situation she has placed them in.  Armed only with what she gleaned from a library book on how to care for babies, her knowledge is very limited in how to properly care for an infant. Her relationship with Justin lacks maturity, and they fight over virtually everything. While Evie believes everything will work out when they get to Montreal where she’ll find a job as a fashion designer, she cannot speak French and cannot sew. Her age and lack of education will surely deter her from this dream. Evie thinks she has it all worked out, but it is quite obvious that she has no idea what is in store for her. Eventually she and Justin separate when Evie sees him making a phone call. Fearing he is calling the police, she takes the baby and runs from the car, eventually finding her way to a diner.

     For most of the story, Evie is completely focused on herself and how she should be the one to care for her baby. She naively feels that she can do a better job raising the child than the adoptive parents who both work and have one of their parents babysitting. Beneath it all, Evie is still grieving the accidental loss of her mother, and perhaps she has taken Grace because she desperately needs to fill this void. Eventually, with her back up against a wall, Evie finally moves away from focusing on her selfish decision for the kidnapping and her concern of being caught, to making a decision that is ultimately for the health and welfare of her baby. 

     From the “Orca Soundings” series, written especially for reluctant readers, Saving Grace will appeal to teens between ages 14-17. Evie and Justin are like real teenagers with believable teen emotions and reactions. There is some light profanity, but it is suitable and appropriate to the situation and the way teens tend to communicate with one another. The story is told in the first person, within a twenty-four hour time period with several flashbacks into the past. This topical novel would make for an excellent for a discussion amongst its teen readers.

Highly Recommended.

Saache Heinrich is a children’s services librarian for the Saskatoon Public Library in Saskatoon, SK.



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