________________ CM . . . . Volume XIV Number 13 . . . . February 22, 2008


121 Express. (Orca Currents).

Monique Polak.
Victoria, BC: Orca, 2008.
106 pp., pbk. & hc., $9.95 (pbk.), $16.95 (hc.).
ISBN 978-1-55143-976-1 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-55143-978-5 (hc.).

Grades 8-12 / Ages 13-17.

Review by Jen Waters.

*** /4

Reviewed from Advance Reading Copy.


As the bus turned onto Cote-Vertu Boulevard, I remembered our science teacher said we'd be studying Charles Darwin's theory of natural selection this year. She told us how Darwin believed only the fittest creatures survive.

Darwin was onto something. A kid's got to be fit to survive the 121 Express.


Lucas is one of the teenagers who rides the 121 Express bus that the Montreal Transit Corporation is threatening to cancel if the teens on the bus don't start behaving. Tired of a being a nerd and unpopular at his previous school, Lucas is willing to do whatever it takes to have a higher social standing at Lorne Crest Academy, even at the expense of his fellow students and safety of the general public. His teasing of a Sikh classmate, Sandeep Singh, gets him in with the cool troublemakers, and, before long, the teen boys are responsible for almost causing a car accident by dumping yogurt on a car's windshield when it is stopped at red light, hitting an old lady in the eye with an apple, forcing the bus driver to have a nervous breakdown, and bringing on an almost-fatal asthma attack to a teen on the bus.

     But while Lucas enjoys being one of the cool kids, he soon realizes that his actions have repercussions, and he comes to his senses as to what a jerk he has been. While researching heroes for an English project with Sandeep, Lucas learns about Rosa Parks, and, although he knows he won't get thrown in prison like Rosa did for taking a stand, he can at least put the mean boys in their place. The boys have been planning to cut Sandeep's hair (which is forbidden for a Sikh boy), and, at the last minute, Lucas throws the scissors out the window of the bus (after he checks to see that there are no cars or people coming, of course) and lectures the boys on their cruelty. This action may seem small in the grand scheme of things, but for Lucas (and the reader) it is more about standing up for what you believe in and attempting to put an end to bullying. As is common with "Orca Currents" and "Soundings" novels, the plot and characters of 121 Express are somewhat simplistic (in order to neatly amount to 100 pages) but provide good basic morals for teens who read at a lower level. Teen boys will sympathize with Lucas's drive to be cool but also come to the realization that doing the right thing is often a better choice.


Jen Waters is the Teen Services Librarian at the Red Deer Public Library in Red Deer, AB.

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

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