________________ CM . . . . Volume XX Number 30. . . .April 4, 2014


Contingency Plan. (Rapid Reads).

Lou Allin.
Victoria, BC: Raven Books/Orca, 2012.
130 pp., pbk., pdf & Ebook, $9.95.
ISBN 978-1-4598-0114-1 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-4598-0115-8 (pdf), ISBN 978-1-4598-0116-5 (Ebook).

Grades 9 and up / Ages 14 and up.

Review by Stephanie Johnson.

*** /4



The next morning Joe looked at me over the Times Colonist. His eyes had once seemed warm and brown. Now when I searched them, I saw through to nothing. Was he even human? What was happening to me?


“Do you have something to tell me?” Joe asked. “I always know by that smirk on your face. You’re such a child.”

I flinched. This sounded like trouble. “What do you mean?”

“Don’t play games Sandra.” He gripped my arm across the table. My coffee spilled onto the cherry wood. Joe liked it polished with lemon wax.

“Look what you’ve done. Stupid and clumsy.” He released my arm as if I were a leper…

No turning back. “I’m going to leave you, Joe.” The statement seemed to come from someone else, a stranger who had had enough.

His eyes hardened into black diamonds. His low, deliberate voice chilled me. “That’s the one thing you won’t do, Sandra. Nobody leaves me. Nobody.”


Sandra Sinclair is a recent widow and mother of a 12-year old daughter named Jane. After Sandra’s husband succumbs to cancer, she has no thoughts about dating again until she falls into the path of a stunningly handsome man named Joe. An immediate connection forms with him, to such a degree that they are finishing each other’s sentences on their first meeting. The chemistry is so strong that Sandra doesn’t even stop to think before falling head over heels in love with Joe. After only two months of dating, Sandra and Joe get married and eventually move into a brand new, custom-made home that Joe had specially built for Sandra. Life could not get any better, until Joe begins to display a different side of his personality that has Sandra questioning what she got herself and Jane into. When Joe’s oppression becomes too dangerous, Sandra decides she and Jane need to flee before it is too late, and they escape to northern British Columbia and hide in a remote cabin. Will Joe find them? What can Sandra possibly do to get her life back?

     Contingency Plan is part of the “Rapid Reads” series which feature books that are fast-paced, of high interest and are short in length. While these books can be read by anyone, they are meant for adults that simply need a quick read, ESL students, reluctant readers and for those who struggle with literacy. Because of the fast-paced and interesting nature of these books, they are also great reads for young adults who might experience similar issues as those mentioned above.

     As the series claims, the novel was extremely fast-paced and was read in one sitting. Though the action moves forward quickly, it does not feel as if much is missing as compared to reading a longer, more elaborate novel. The setting still receives notice as does the inner thought processes of the protagonist, and because you are so focused on what is happening, you don’t really stop to consider what could have been said. The most noticeable difference between this text and a longer novel was in the passage of time as Contingency Plan does not focus for long on one point of time but is constantly moving forward, For instance, one of the chapters covers a month’s worth of time.

     Largely due to the quick pace of the novel, the story is an interesting one as the reader does become invested and wants to learn what will happen to Sandra. While the dialogue was cheesy at times, it was bearable as you wanted to move on with the plot rather than focus too much on what the characters were saying. When you look at the storyline as a whole, it is a bit ridiculous and impractical, especially when you consider Sandra’s plan to rid herself of Joe by racing across a half-frozen lake on snowmobiles in the hopes that he will fall in and drown. Having said that, the reader must work on suspending disbelief because, if the reader accomplishes this, the story will, in fact, be a fun one, kind of like the critically-bashed action movies that everyone ends up seeing at least once in their life.

     Despite the fact that the protagonist is a female, the author does seem to make an effort to make the novel more accessible to male readers, although the stereotypical manner in which she does this may not work for everyone. For example, the author repeatedly describes the make of vehicles throughout the novel, like the “Bombardier Ski-Doo snowmobile…a tiny 250cc model - a baby next to today’s muscular 1000cc versions”, followed by a rundown of the engine maintenance procedures. While it remains to be said whether this makes the novel more interesting to male readers, from this reviewer’s perspective, it hindered the momentum of the story and its likeability.

     I am in definite agreement with the “Rapid Read”s statement about who can benefit from reading novels such as Contingency Plan. When considering the young adults who are reluctant readers or who might experience some difficulty with literacy, this novel could be a great fit for them. Overall, Contingency Plan is a fun, fast read that can bring enjoyment to anyone’s reading repertoire.


Stephanie Johnson is a graduate of the Master of Library and Information Studies Program from the University of Alberta.

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

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