________________ CM . . . . Volume XXI Number 17. . . .January 9, 2015


The Way Back. (Orca Soundings).

Carrie Mac.
Victoria, BC: Orca, 2014.
160 pp., pbk., hc., pdf & epub, $9.95 (pbk.), $16.95 (hc.).
ISBN 978-1-4598-0715-0 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-4598-0716-7 (hc.), ISBN 978-1-4598-0717-4 (pdf), ISBN 978-1-4598-0718-1 (epub).

Grades 10-12 / Ages 15-17.

Review by Sylvia Santiago.

*** /4

Reviewed from Advance Reading Copy.



Colby had always wanted to be the right girl for Milo. The one who could make him jump the fence. And even while she knew he’d never be straight, all it took was some Ecstasy and a bottle of wine and she’d managed to convince him to give it a try. Just once.

He’d laughed the whole time, and it wasn’t until she turned over and suggested that he imagine she was some hot guy that he finally got off. She thought he’d pulled out.

Guess not.

He’d joked about it after, but even he didn’t tell anyone about what they did. As if having sex with her somehow made him less gay. He said she’d been his experiment.

If she didn’t get an abortion, she’d have to tell Milo.

Chalk that up as one more reason to get rid of the baby.


Colby Wyatt’s life has gone from bad to worse. Her junkie father took off a few months earlier, and she’s been living with her best friend, Gigi, at Gigi’s grandmother’s house ever since. Since Gram sells stolen goods out of her pawnshop, Colby’s days are spent shoplifting, robbing houses with Gigi and Milo, or getting high. But when Colby discovers she’s pregnant, the 17-year-old is forced to think about the mess her life has become. She’s addicted to meth, pregnant, and the father of her baby is Milo. And not only is Milo her best friend’s brother, but he’s also gay.

     Resolute, Colby goes to a government agency to find out getting into rehab. A social worker named Mr. Horvath arranges a place for her at Meadow Farm. Once at the rehabilitation facility, Colby keeps to herself. She can’t decide if she wants to have an abortion, or have the baby and put it up for adoption, or keep the baby. A month into her treatment, Colby finally calls Milo and tells him that she’s pregnant, and that he’s the father. Colby ends up more confused after Milo tells her that he’ll support whatever decision she makes: “She wanted him to make her decision easier. Instead, he was making it harder. Just by being nice.”

      Colby surprises herself by confiding in Jordan, a lesbian that she quarreled with on the drive to Meadow Farm. Though their initial meeting was far from amicable, Jordan turns out to be a loyal friend. Their friendship remains strong once they leave rehab. Gigi instantly dislikes Jordan and makes no secret of it. Milo and Jordan, however, get along very well. They bond over their shared affection for Colby and her baby. Milo even gives up his lifestyle of drugs and promiscuous sex in preparation for fatherhood.

     As Colby’s relationships with Milo and Jordan strengthen, her relationship with Gigi falters. It becomes even more strained after they rob a house in Kerrisdale. To Colby, “It seemed different this time. Dirtier. As if the baby and being clean set a new standard of okay, and this failed miserably.” Colby is alarmed by Gigi’s spiraling addiction, and Gigi is scornful of Colby’s concern. They grow further apart after Colby’s daughter, Luna Grace, is born, and more so when Colby moves into an apartment with Jordan and Milo.

     The novel ends with Gigi’s funeral. With the exception of Gigi’s family, many of the people present are there in support of Colby: her father, who recently finished his own stint in rehab and whom she’s reconciled with; Mr. Horvath, her social worker; Shauna, her Narcotics Anonymous sponsor, and Jordan, Colby’s friend and roommate. Without help, Colby realizes that she might never have found her way back to a sober and stable life. She could easily have followed the same destructive path as Gigi.

     Carrie Mac is a popular writer of YA literature; The Way Back is her sixth book for Orca. The novel’s quick pace and straightforward narration will appeal to reluctant teen readers as it pulls them immediately into Colby’s predicament. Mac treats the issues of teenage pregnancy, drug use, and homosexuality, with frankness. Nothing is glossed over or glamorized. Colby is a character to whom readers can easily relate to and with whom they can sympathize. That being said, while it’s satisfying that Colby gets her happy ending, it can seem a little too neat.


Sylvia Santiago works in Libraries & Cultural Resources with the University of Calgary.

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

Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
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ISSN 1201-9364
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