________________ CM . . . . Volume XIX Number 25 . . . . March 1, 2013


Deadly. (Orca Soundings).

Sarah N. Harvey.
Victoria, BC: Orca, 2013.
117 pp., pbk., hc., pdf & epub, $9.95 (pbk.), $16.95 (hc.).
ISBN 978-1-4598-0364-0 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-4598-0365-7 (hc.), ISBN 978-1-4598-0366-4 (pdf), ISBN 978-1-4598-0367-1 (epub).

Grades 9-11 / Ages 14-16.

Review by Karen Rankin.

**** /4

Reviewed from Advance Reading Copy.




When my guts stop cramping, I splash my face with cold water and dry it on a white hand towel. For some reason, seeing streaks of mascara on the towel makes me feel better. There is no mirror in the bathroom. I probably look like shit but that's the least of my worries. There's a big magnet on our fridge at home that says,
Crying is alright in its own way while it lasts. But you have to stop sooner or later, and then you still have to decide what to do. The guy who wrote the Narnia books said that. Not sure what he had to cry about. After my dad moved out, Mom cried for days, locked away in her room. Then one day she just stopped, and I haven't seen her cry since. A single tear trickles down my cheek and I brush it away. I need to decide what to do. I won't stop being afraid until I'm out of here, but I'll have to live with that.

The words
I'm not going to hurt you keep running through my head. If it's true, then all I have to do is write seven stupid essays and I will be set free. If it's not true, then I need to protect myself and figure out a way out of my prison.


My phone rings. Amy's home number.

"Where have you been?" I say when I pick up.

"Uh, Eric. It's me, Beth. Mom just got up. She's asking where Amy is. Any luck with your friends?"

"Eric? Eric?" Amy's Mom comes on the line. ... [Amy] can't be [missing]. She's probably at Shawna's house, wherever that is.

"Hi, Ms. Lessard. I haven't seen Amy since last night. At the party."

"What party?"

Oh shit. Amy told her mom she was going to Monica's place to work on a dance routine. Ms. Lessard is very down on parties. It occurs to me that
down on is the opposite of down with. I smile to myself. Amy would think that was funny, too.

"Eric? What party? Where?"

When I don't answer right away, she says, "Eric, I don't care about the party. I just need to know where she is."

"I left the party early–– we had a fight."

"A fight?"

"Yeah. No big deal. I wanted to go. She wanted to stay. She said she'd call a cab to get home."

"You left her there. Alone." It sounds more like a statement than an accusation. But I still feel the need to defend myself. Ms. Lessard is always nice to me, but I don't think she trusts me, exactly.

"Her friends were there. And she wasn't drunk or anything. And she'd never get a ride with someone who'd been drinking. Never. You know that."

There's silence on the other end of the line, as if both Beth and her mom are holding their breath. Remembering.

Sixteen-year-old Amy wakes up in a windowless room she doesn't recognize, and with no clue as to how she got there. The last thing she can recall is being at a party where she was befriended by a girl named Shawna. A letter left in the room informs Amy that she has been kidnapped. If she writes one essay per day on each of the seven deadly sins, she "will be free to go back to [her] life, if [she] still wants to." Amy's kidnapper has left her paper, Sharpies, food, and toiletries. Two of the room's high walls are topped by a double row of glass bricks through which she can see daylight.

      In the meantime, Amy's boyfriend Eric, who is sorry that he left her alone at the party, manages to get the phone number of Shawna, the mystery girl with whom she was dancing. But Shawna never answers his calls. Amy's mother, also concerned about her absence, has contacted the police who want to question Eric.

      Amy arms herself with a metal rod and, on day two, realizes that she could scratch out the grout between the glass bricks and eventually call or signal for help. She continues to write one essay per day and, when not writing or sleeping, she climbs a rickety tower of furniture to scratch away at the grout.

      The second time the police speak to Eric, they inform him that his old girlfriend, Niki, saw him hit Amy at the party and then leave with her in his father's car. Curious as to why Niki is lying, Eric pays her a visit. His 'X' threatens to get Eric into more trouble if he won't go back to dating her. Eric steals her cell phone and discovers that she has been in constant contact with Shawna and Jason, Amy's old boyfriend. There are enough texts, photos, and videos on Niki's phone to prove that, with her help, Jason has committed at least two crimes, including rape of a minor.

      By day five, Amy has written essays on sloth, wrath, greed, and envy. Expecting a breakthrough with the grout, she writes one last 'three-in-one' essay.

      Eric finds out where Jason lives, goes to his high-rise residence, and then follows him to Amy's prison. Moments after Amy has managed to signal for help, Jason opens the door to Amy's room and is tackled by Eric.

      Sarah Harvey's Deadly is a suspenseful and fast-paced addition to Orca's hi-lo "Soundings" series. The story is narrated by both Amy and Eric through alternating chapters. While riveted by Amy's immediate predicament, this reader also wanted to find out what has happened to her sister, Beth, and why Amy is angry with their father. Much of the latter plot line is revealed through Amy's essays. The seven deadly sins may strike some as a familiar theme, and it turns out that Amy's kidnapper is neither "super bright" nor imaginative. When questioned about the essays after being caught, "Jason squirms and mutters, 'I saw it in a movie. I thought it was cool and scary.'" While Jason and Niki, "the criminal mastermind," are simply sketched, both are believably callow, self-centered, and thoughtless.

      Amy is a resourceful, brave, interesting, and convincing character. She arms herself with the metal rod that she knows she'll find (supporting the float) in the toilet tank. And after piling up every box and piece of furniture at hand in order to reach the glass blocks and grout, she pushes herself to overcome her fear of heights. Amy's bravery is also apparent in her essays, each of which has an honest and unique approach to the topic at hand, as per the following excerpt from 'Wrath.'

Are wrath and anger the same thing? Wrath seems much more serious. Biblical, almost. Not that I believe in the kind of god who smites people with his wrath. Although it would be totally okay for him or her to smite whoever has put me in this room. I hope to have the chance to do some smiting myself.

      Like Amy, Eric proves to be credibly capable and resourceful. His concern over Amy's silence the day after the party is quickly established, as is his fairly typical male teen attitude towards sex:

"Dude," [a friend] says [to Eric], "[Amy's] probably at that chick Shawna's place. They were dancing last night. Girl on girl. It was hot. I thought you were going to get some three-way action."

"Shut up," I say, even though I agree. It was hot, and I had thought about the possibilities.

      The book's last chapter, narrated by Amy, deals with the on-going consequences of her confinement including nightmares, weekly visits to a therapist, strange food cravings, and a sense of loneliness. On the positive side, her doctor says she'll get better, and she has developed a more tolerant view of her father.

      Deadly is a captivating story that readers of both sexes will thoroughly enjoy.

Highly Recommended.

Karen Rankin is a Toronto, ON, writer and teacher.

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

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