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


Stuff We All Get. (Orca Currents).

K. L. Denman.
Victoria, BC: Orca, 2011.
128 pp., pbk. & hc., $9.95 (pbk.), $16.95 (hc.).
ISBN 978-1-5546-9820-2 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-5546-9821-9 (hc).

Grades 7 and up / Ages 12 and up.

Review by Amy Trepanier.

***½ /4



By the third listen, I know I have to find her. This girl understands me better than I understand myself. I could never put into words what loneliness feels like, but she gets it. She knows what it feels like to be mocked. She knows what it feels like to want to go. Just go.

The last bit worries me. What if she stashed her CD in the geocache box and just left?

Possessed of the gift of synesthesia, a condition enabling him to 'see' melodies as colour, 15-year-old Zack finds solace in music. The child of a single mother, Zack is forced to move wherever her work takes them. Frequent relocations spell social ostracism for Zack, already something of a loner by nature. When Zach is temporarily suspended from his new school for fighting, his mother grounds him and restricts his extra-curricular activities to mother-son outings. It is on one such outing that she introduces him to the practice of geo-caching, setting in motion a series of events that change the way Zack thinks about music, himself, and humanity.

      While initially underwhelmed by the basic premise of geo-caching and unimpressed by the cache he and his mother discover, Zack comes away with a treasure more valuable to him than he first realizes. Having selected a burned CD simply labelled "Famous" from the loot, Zack is astounded by how deeply he relates to the lyrics of each song and how acutely his synesthesia is triggered by the voice of the singer. Convinced he harbours a soul-deep connection with the female vocalist (whom he also convinces himself is young, beautiful, and passionate), Zack defies his mother by sneaking out of the house and setting out to find his musical soul mate. With a bit of impressive sleuthing, Zack eventually tracks down his muse. While Jolene is, in fact, young and beautiful, she is far from the girl Zack envisioned her to be. Overcome by romantic illusions, Zack fails to recognize Jolene for what she is; a self-centred, fame-obsessed fake.

      In the ultimate act of defiance, Zack steals his mother's car to drive Jolene to a friend's house in the next town. Too young to hold a driver's license, Zack is cognizant of the danger at hand and finds no reward for the risk he has taken when he discovers the degree to which Jolene is selfish and insincere. He is wounded to learn that she did not, in fact, write the beautiful songs by which he finds himself so enraptured, but rather she is a poseur, touting the songs as her own.

      Months later, long after he has paid the price for defying his mother and breaking the law, Zack learns that Jolene has auditioned for American Idol. He is surprised by his lack of jubilation by news of her humiliation at the outcome of the audition. Rather, he learns to appreciate the experience as a turning point in his life whereupon he begins to see beyond the colours of music to the true colours of the human soul.

      Remaining true to the promise of the "Orca Currents" series, Stuff We All Get offers reluctant readers (or those reading below the assigned grade level) an edgy, fast-paced, and thought-provoking storyline written in a very straight-forward, comprehensible style.

Highly Recommended.

Amy Trepanier holds a BA in Psychology from the University of British Columbia and an MLIS from the University of Alberta School of Library and Information Studies. She is now the Teen Services Librarian at 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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