________________ CM . . . . Volume XX Number 33 . . . . April 25, 2014


The Voice Inside My Head.

S. J. Laidlaw.
Toronto. ON: Tundra Books, 2014.
249 pp., hardcover, $19.99.
ISBN 978-1-77049-565-4.

Grades 7-11 / Ages 12-16.

Review by Karen Boyd.

**½ /4



Me: If you're not dead, I'll give up weed. I know I told you I'd already stopped but that was a lie. This time I really will.

Pat: You're such a liar.

Me: This time I mean it, and I won't cut class anymore either.

Pat: I thought you'd stopped cutting class. The school didn't call home once last semester.

Me: Yeah, about that, they sort of got a note from Mom saying I had mono.

Pat: You never had mono.

Seventeen-year-old Luke arrives on the Island of Utila to search for his missing older sister, Pat. The authorities have declared her disappearance either a suicide or a drunken accident. Luke refuses to accept either explanation and goes to seek his own answers. Guided by Pat's voice in his head, Luke becomes immersed in her life in Utila. He struggles to reconcile the high achieving straight-laced sister Pat that he knew with the partying Trish that she seems to have become during her summer internship studying whale sharks. As Luke gets to know her friends, her boyfriend, and her enemies, he is led to the tragic discovery that Pat was murdered. With this truth, Luke is able to find closure and move forward with his own life.

      The use of the voice in the head device allows the readers to see the dynamic between Luke and his sister. She is clearly the traditional responsible, overachieving older sister while he plays the part of the slacker, stoner younger brother. Neither of these characterizations is apparent other than in these conversations and flashbacks. The characters that readers get to know in the story are very different. It appears that Pat, in addition to changing her name, also gave up being a vegetarian and started drinking while on the island. Yet later, readers find out that she was engaged, involved with her fiancé's family, and protesting drug dealers who were using the island for drops. These multiple interpretations of Pat, while certainly demonstrating the complexity of human character, are somewhat disconcerting as readers try to navigate through the motives and motivations of the characters leading to Pat's disappearance.

      Luke's parents have returned from Utila satisfied with the results of the investigation yet seem quite comfortable sending their 17-year-old son alone to the place where their daughter has just disappeared. As the book progresses, the parents become more dysfunctional and impotent, which is different than how they were portrayed at the beginning of the book. Laidlaw attempts to slowly reveal the information that has led the characters to their current situation, but the result is a feeling of inconsistency that is difficult to understand.

      Laidlaw uses the disappearance of Pat as the catalyst for Luke to reflect on his own life. He is suffering tremendous guilt for being instrumental in Pat's getting this internship that seems to have led to her death. He also struggles with the person that he had become, someone neither he nor Pat was proud of. Although Pat's story is complicated and somewhat unbelievable, Luke's self-discovery is nicely written. While on the island, Luke meets Zach who was Pat's friend and secret admirer. Zach has been disowned by his parents and lives from beer to beer. Luke takes Zach under his wing and not only turns his own life around but attempts to help Zach as well.

      The mystery of Pat's disappearance is really only the backdrop to Luke's story. The inclusion of voodoo, a lover's quarrel, and a drug-dealing cartel are puzzle pieces that allow Luke to do something and interact with more characters. The actual conclusion of the story and the revelation of the truth is a bit anticlimactic and a little difficult to believe. As a story of a boy dealing with the loss of his sister, The Voice Inside My Head is an enjoyable read. As a mystery, it loses some of its charm.


Karen Boyd is an Instructor in the Bachelor of Education program at the University of Manitoba.

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

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