________________ CM . . . . Volume XIII Number 22 . . . . June 22, 2007


Titan Clash. (Orca Sports).

Sigmund Brouwer.
Victoria, BC: Orca, 2007.
173 pp., pbk., $9.95.
ISBN 978-1-55143-721-7.

Subject Heading:
Basketball-Juvenile fiction.

Grades 6-8 / Ages 11-13.

Review by Karen Rankin.

**½  /4


I had heard the phrase “post bail” plenty of times on television, on cop shows and on lawyer shows. I knew what it meant. Basically a security deposit had to be paid. If Dad didn’t show up for his trial date, he would lose the deposit.

This time, Dad broke the silence.

“You haven’t asked me whether I took the money,” he said.

“I didn’t think I needed to ask,” I said.

Dad reached his cuffed hands across the table and squeezed my hand. “Thanks,” he said.

That’s when I realized exactly how tough this was on him. I mean, I imagine when I was little, he would have picked me up or hugged me. But these days he barely even pats me on the shoulder. Being a man, he always says, means acting like a man. And that, he always says, means standing on your own. So, he’s let me learn how to deal with my own cuts and scrapes and disappointments.

“Time’s up,” the guard called.

Dad stood up and the guard led him back into the hallway that led to the cells and the noises and the smells no one should have to face for a night.

I wanted to cry, for Dad and for myself. Because there was one thing louder than anything Dad had said.

Dad had not told me he was innocent.        


Seventeen-year-old Jack Spencer is the star of his small town, high-school basketball team, Turner High Titans. However, shortly after finding out that his father has been arrested for stealing from his employer, Turner Chev Olds, Jack is cut from the team. Jack, whose mother has recently been hospitalized as a result of a car accident, has to deal on his own with his mother’s condition, his fast-fading dream of a college basketball scholarship as well as the stigma of his father’s arrest and subsequent refusal to post bail. Amiable Ike Bothwell, Jack’s father’s best friend and boss, believes that Mr. Spencer is innocent. Ike tells Jack he’s sorry that his older brother, Ted, “a rules and regulations guy without a heart,” called in the police. Ike also tells Jack that he’s found out that his mother’s car accident was no accident; someone tampered with her brakes. One evening, Jack is lured away from his house and discovers upon his return that it has been ransacked. Someone is searching for evidence that will exonerate Jack’s dad. When Jack finally figures out what and where that is, he takes it to Ike Bothwell, and soon the real culprit is revealed. Along the way, Jack gains some insight into his father’s stern approach to life.            

     Jack comes across as a rather flat, predictable sort of guy. But, this is no accident. His somewhat distant, strict, and extremely sober father has taught him to control his emotions and to act in a mature and responsible manner. Jack is a credible character. However, from Jack’s amusing best friend to his father’s employers, Ike and Ted, to the town doctor, the school principal, etc., the secondary and peripheral characters in Titan Clash are all fairly one dimensional. One gets the sense that the plot is so dense that there is no time for character development.    

     Author Sigmund Brouwer wants to impart some wisdom to young readers: firstly, your parents are more than “just your parents:” i.e., they are people too. Fair enough. The author’s second bit of wisdom has to do with his religious beliefs. Ike Bothwell tells Jack, “Think about life here on earth as a training camp for your soul….The way God designed it, all the troubles and temptations we face are things to help us learn and grow.” This second theme first appears about three quarters of the way through the novel when Jack starts thinking about God: “I backed up and thought for a second. And I realized I was mad at God.” Jack eventually tells his father, “You can’t make me into a robot. I mean, even God lets us make choices.” I suppose that how the author’s message is received will depend on the reader. This reader, however, did not appreciate the preachy approach taken or the fact that the whole issue was sprung so late in the novel.

     Titan Clash gets off to a good beginning with a funny and engrossing scene in the school gym. Just before a big game and with practically the entire town in attendance, Ike Bothwell releases 150 pigeons with one of them bearing a paper that promises its finder a new truck. The story moves at a fast pace from then on. Regrettably, however, it is racing towards a pretty predictable conclusion.

Recommended with reservations.

Karen Rankin is a Toronto writer and editor of children’s stories.

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

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