________________ CM . . . . Volume XIII Number 3 . . . . September 29, 2006


The Blue Helmet.

William Bell.
Toronto, ON: Doubleday Canada, 2006.
167 pp., cloth, $22.95.
ISBN 0-385-66246-7.

Grades 9-12 / Ages 14-17.

Review by Daphne Hamilton-Nagorsen.

*** ½ /4

Reviewed from Advance Reading Copy.


Lee Mercer has never had very many choices. When Lee was seven, his mother died of cancer, and his father works long hours at two jobs.

I spent most of my life alone, without much help when my eyes dimmed from the dark rage that took hold of me and scared the hell out of me because I didn't know what it was or where it came from.

One night, Lee is arrested breaking into an auto parts store for a local gang. Out of choices, Lee is sent to live with his Aunt Reena in New Toronto. Reena runs Reena's Unique Café, and Lee works there, helping out and running a delivery service for Reena. Lee meets all kinds of people, including the self-proclaimed Queen of Sweden and Bruce Cutter, a stay-in, incredibly intelligent and incredibly paranoid individual who's fine as long as he remembers to take his medication. Lee and Bruce soon become good friends. Eventually, Lee finds about Bruce's past and why Bruce is the way he is. Bruce's past forces Lee to confront his own past and decide who he really wants to be.

     He was telling me in his long, roundabout, Bruce Cutter fashion that when the darkness comes, from outside or from inside, and tempts you to mine the schoolyard, blow up the building, pick up the gun, throw the punch then you have two choices, the green helmet or the blue one. You can join the war, or you can keep the peace.

     Lee Mercer does not start out as a likeable character. He sees the world in very black and white terms his terms - and he is not willing to change or to listen to anyone. His character changes and grows throughout the book, but the changes are very subtle. The reader mainly notices the changes when Lee does something that he would not have done in the past, such as his volunteering to help someone or figuring out the consequences of his actions. The Blue Helmet reminds the reader that all actions have consequences, and that one must take responsibility for one's actions and the resulting consequences. This is brought home time and time again as Lee sees the consequences of his actions, first without accepting them, and then starting to take the responsibility. William Bell draws parallels between actions in war, such as what Bruce experiences in Croatia, and actions at home, such as what Lee experiences. The setting does not matter; you always have the same two choices the green helmet or the blue helmet. The Blue Helmet is also the story of Lee's family, especially the relationship between Lee and his father. Their relationship is in terrible shape, and neither one tries to understand the other. Lee has to grow and accept the reasons why his father works two jobs, and he has to reach out to make the reconciliation and re-create his family. These sections are written in very stark terms, without taking sides with Lee or his father.

     Bell has created a fast-paced and moving story of a teen trying to find his place in the world and make the choice between the green helmet and the blue helmet.

Highly Recommended.

Daphne Hamilton-Nagorsen is a student in the School of Library, Archival and Information Studies at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, BC.

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

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.
Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.