CM . . .
. Volume XIII Number 3 . . . . September 29, 2006
Markham, ON: Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 2006.
195 pp., pbk. & cl., $11.95 (pbk.), $22.95 (cl.).
ISBN 1-55005-100-8 (pbk.), ISBN 1-55005-149-0 (cl.).
Guide dogs-Juvenile fiction.
Human-animal relationships-Juvenile fiction.
Grades 7-9 / Ages 12-14.
Review by Gail Hamilton.
In the final book of the “Beauty” trilogy, the story is told, in alternating chapters, from the points of view of Liz and Kyle. Kyle, a senior, whose blindness was caused from complications from diabetes, is learning to work with a guide dog, Beauty Two, that was raised by Liz. When a chance encounter- Beauty leads Kyle to Liz's house- brings the two teens together, their friendship grows and develops into something more. But the teens have several problems other than coping with Kyle's blindness. Kyle has difficulty finding a balance between his food intake and his insulin dosage; his literature teacher assigns him double the homework of the rest of the class; and being with Liz could threaten Kyle's ability to keep Beauty who becomes distracted and doesn't follow commands whenever Liz is around. Liz, on the other hand, resents having to babysit her toddler nephew, Teal, who lives with her family; her new dog, Magic, is rumoured to have bitten Teal and might have to be returned to Canine Vision; and she has been forbidden to see Kyle because of their age difference. However, Liz defies her parents and spends time with Kyle every day after school. In a surprising conclusion to the story, Kyle and Beauty save Kyle's younger brother, Donald, when Donald falls through some thin ice on a stream. Beauty survives, but Kyle does not.
Mom ranted about a lot of things that day when she caught us “in bed together”, as she put it- how Liz was too young for me; how her mother hated me and how I could never turn that around; how there were lots of other girls perfect for me- what about Maddison, for heaven's sake? But the only thing she said that made any sense was this: Beauty would never entirely be my dog as long as her previous foster owner, Elizabeth, was around me.
McNicoll writes with an understanding of the teen persona, switching with ease from the female to the male perspective. Her portrayal of the two main characters and the problems they face is realistic without being maudlin. Of the three books in the trilogy, this one focuses least on the dog-trainer relationship, and so those readers looking for a warm “dog story” will not find it here. Instead, McNicoll focuses on the teens' relationship and the trials and tribulations of growing up.
A somewhat abrupt, yet satisfying and dramatic, conclusion to a very successful trilogy.
Gail Hamilton is a teacher-librarian in Winnipeg, MB.
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