________________ CM . . . . Volume XVI Number 1 . . . . September 4, 2009


Hannah's Touch. (Orca Soundings).

Laura Langston.
Victoria, BC: Orca. 2009.
132 pp., pbk. & hc., $9.95 (bk.), $16.95(hc.).
ISBN 978-1-55469-149-4 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-55469-150-0 (hc.).

Grades 7-10 / Ages 12-15.

Review by Beth Wilcox.

*** /4

Reviewed from Advance Reading Copy.


I grabbed a clean towel from the counter and removed the soiled one. My breakfast waffle flipped in my stomach. Talk about ugly. The tip of Alan's thumb was hanging by a string of skin.

I slapped the clean towel on before anyone could see. "Get Drummond!" I squeezed Alan's thumb, applied as much pressure as I dared. "He needs a doctor."

Then I felt it. The same buildup I'd felt after the bee sting. Only this time it happened quickly, like a movie on fast forward. And this time I didn't pass out.

The voices of my classmates faded; the color of the fruits on the counter blurred. Suddenly the presence was there. Making me bigger, fuller, softer.

And warm. Especially on the palms of my hands.


Laura Langston's second High Interest/Low Vocabulary teen novel for "Orca Soundings," Hannah's Touch, uses 16-year-old Hannah's ability to heal with her touch as a metaphor for her gradual ability to forgive herself and others for the death of her boyfriend, Logan. Hannah narrates the magic realism of her experiences with a sarcastic wit that adds humour to the book and helps balance out some of the difficult emotional content.

     Hannah is caught up in mourning Logan's death, blaming herself and Logan's best friend, Tom, for the car accident that killed him almost one year earlier. When a severe allergic reaction to a bee sting triggers an out-of-body experience, Hanna has visions of Logan who tells her she has work to do with Tom. After returning to her body, Hannah is horrified to discover she has developed the ability to heal others with her touch. Her elderly friend, the feisty M.C. (Mrs. O'Connell) whose decrepit miniature poodle, Kitty, is the first to benefit from Hannah's powers, tries to get Hannah to appreciate her new gift and open her mind to the unknown, but Hannah refuses. Understandably, this "miracle" does not fit with Hannah's logical mind. Up to this point, she has been a normal teenage girl who believed in things like "lululemon yoga pants" and "love." Moreover, like many teenagers, she does not want the negative attention of being obviously different and a "freak."

     Hannah inadvertently heals various animals and friends (like Alan in the above excerpt) while holding out hope that her powers will disappear when she figures out what Logan wants her to do regarding Tom. Hannah detests Tom; she blames him for the accident that killed Logan because Tom challenged Logan to race cars after they had been drinking. Hannah's grudge towards Tom is well-founded; he appears to show no remorse or sadness regarding the death of his best friend.

     Langston is quick to emotionally engage the reader by effectively conveying Hannah's sorrow, anger, and isolation. Hannah's slow process of forgiveness and letting go is relatable and well-paced for the circumstances. When Hannah learns Tom's leg may be amputated due to a serious infection, Hannah begrudgingly accepts her powers and decides to heal him. However, she is only able to heal Tom after she recognizes his emotional pain is deeper than she had imagined and forgives Tom and herself.

     Hannah's Touch is set in Seattle, WA, but the setting is only minimally sketched out. In the span of the 132 page novel, Langston makes the wise choice to emphasize Hannah's emotional landscape over her physical. The low vocabulary format does not inhibit Langston's ability to intricately and realistically convey the lingering emotions following a traumatic of loss and the paralyzing effect of guilt and anger.


Beth Wilcox is a Master of Arts in Children's Literature candidate at the University of British Columbia.

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

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ISSN 1201-9364
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