CM . . .
. Volume XVII Number 5. . . .October 1, 2010
Slick. (Orca Currents).
Victoria, BC: Orca, 2010.
166 pp., pbk. & hc., $9.95 (pbk.), $16.95 (hc.).
ISBN 978-1-55469-352-8 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-55469-353-5 (hc.).
Grades 5-9 / Ages 10-14.
Review by Philip Bravo.
Reviewed from Advance Reading Copy.
We stop at the corner to say goodbye.
"That was great of your mom's boyfriend to organize the workshop" Olive enthuses.
"Whatever," I say. "He just wants me on his side. He's buying me off so he can have my mom."
"When my parents and I moved into the neighborhood, you baked us a blackberry crumble," Olive says. "Were you just trying to buy us?"
"I was being friendly. You know that. Neighborly."
"So maybe Robert's being neighborly."
"Yeah, well, I don't want him in the neighborhood."
"Liza Maybird, it sounds like you're the one with the problem. Not him."
I feel myself turn red. I want to hide. I want to scream and say it isn't true.
"You are so good at fixing your bike," Olive says then, raising her eyebrows thoughtfully. And I know what she's trying to say. She's saying that she sees the real me, whether I'm being smart, like when I'm fixing my bike, or whether I'm being stupid.
"Orca Currents" couldn't have picked a better time to publish Slick, Sara Cassidy's first novel. The massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico that has devastated the area's wildlife, coastline, and the livelihood of thousands of families has brought the risks of drilling for oil to the forefront of our imagination. Slick is a coming of age story about an adolescent girl who becomes an activist against the oil industry. At the same time, she comes to terms with her parents' divorce and her mother's new relationship with Robert, also known as "Slick."
Upset about her mother's new partner and the changes that new relationships bring, Liza, a precocious teenage girl, channels her frustration into a political activism. Guided by her teacher and information gathered for a school assignment, Liza recruits a few girl friends to form GRRR or Girls for Renewable Resources, Really. As GRRR learns about the injustices perpetuated by Argenta Oil in Central America, GRRR elects to begin a campaign to compel Argenta Oil to honour a court order to compensate the victims of oil spills in Guatemala. GRRR leads a protest in front of Argenta Oil's head office in Vancouver, an action which focuses media attention on the issue. GRRR's protest leads to their first victory when executives of Argenta Oil, under the glare of media attention, commit to doing the right thing.
Meanwhile, the personal and the political are intertwined for Liza. The aforementioned Robert happens to be employed by Argenta Oil. Liza's ulterior motive for her activism is to reveal Robert's true colors to her mother and so end their relationship. In an interesting twist, however, Liza's impression of Robert changes as he becomes involved in leading Argenta Oil executives to pay attention to GRRR's demands. These issues are neatly resolved when Liza accepts her mother's relationship with Robert, Argenta Oil honours its commitments and GRRR is ready to pursue another campaign to change the world.
Slick is a well-written, fast paced, high interest novel with compelling characters written for reluctant readers. Although some readers may not be satisfied with the novel's neat and tidy resolutions, Liza is an appealing, interesting and realistic character. The book also encourages girls and tweens in general to become interested in political issues and current events. This is Sara Cassidy's first novel, but she expects to publish a series based on GRRR's and Liza's adventures, a series which I look forward to reading. Although this series is aimed at reluctant readers, children between the ages 10 and 14 will enjoy reading Slick as well.
Philip Bravo is a librarian living in Winnipeg, MB.
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