________________ CM . . . . Volume XXI Number 18 . . . . January 16, 2015


Out of It. (SideStreets).

Michelle Kadarusman.
Toronto, ON: James Lorimer, 2014.
174 pp., pbk., hc. & ebook, $9.95 (pbk.), $16.95 (hc.), $7.95 (ebook).
ISBN 978-1-4594-0720-6 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-4594-0721-3 (hc.), ISBN 978-1-4594-0722-0 (ebook).

Grades 7-10 / Ages 12-15.

Review by Charlotte Duggan.

***½ /4



"Come on," said Lacey, her voice softening. "You know that your folks won't be home until late. They won't even know we've been gone. "We'll just go for, like, a half-hour."

I sighed and fell back on the sofa. "What if Kyle finds out?"

"How is he going to find out?" she said. I'm not going to tell him. Stop being such a mental patient. It's just a ride, that's all. Damian asked me to bring a friend along and, like, I'm really into him, y'know? Please?"

A part of me was scared of messing things up with Kyle. Another part of me didn't want to be left behind. I didn't want Lacey to think she was outgrowing me. And it was true: I owed her.

Realistic fiction works best when the driving force is character development as opposed to plot events. Michelle Kadarusman's Out of It is solid proof that this maxim holds true even in high-interest, low-vocabulary novels. Out of It is a fast moving, short, and easily accessed novel about the friendship between two girls as they make their first tentative steps into the world of boys, drugs and alcohol, and independence.

      The main character is Suri, daughter of an Indonesian-born mother and Canadian father. Suri's parents are hippie types who own an organic restaurant sourced by the family's own rural garden. Their home is in the poor part of town, the Strip, close to Suri's best friend Lacey. But where Suri's parents are warm, loving and thoughtful, Lacey's alcoholic mother is inattentive and absent. The girls have been friends since kindergarten when Lacey came to Suri's rescue and pledged lifelong friendship. As the story begins, the girls are on their way to a school dance. Suri is excited because Ryan, the boy she has a crush on, has indicated that he is interested in Suri too. In a dynamic that will repeat itself later in the story, Lacey convinces Suri to drink some alcohol before the dance. Suri agrees because she fears her best friend thinks she's immature, that Lacey is "running too far ahead of her". Inexperienced and naive, Suri consumes an excessive amount and arrives at the dance just in time to vomit all over Ryan.

      Suspended from school, Suri has time to collect her thoughts and reflect, and we readers are treated to an A-plus parenting lesson. Rather than becoming angry, her mom is sympathetic and understanding. She tells Suri, "You don't have to talk about it now... but we expect you to explain yourself at some point". Meanwhile, Suri will work, unpaid, at her parents' restaurant for the duration of the school suspension.

      Kadarusman's use of social media elements, like text conversations and Facebook posts, lend credibility to the plot and authenticity to the characters. We read Suri and Lacey's post dance debrief and Ryan's sweet assurances that everything is OK. And, we read the Facebook post where Suri becomes the target of angry, racial slurs and threats from Ryan's former girlfriend, Willow. Willow has witnessed Suri's humiliating drunken scene at the school dance. She knows that Ryan likes Suri, and she is prepared to do whatever it takes to get Ryan back.

      Unfortunately Suri misses the opportunity to analyze how and why she got so drunk before the dance, and instead she returns to school and basks in her new "cool girl" reputation. She does not recognize that what really happened was that she allowed Lacey to pressure her into something, instead of thinking things through for herself. Suri's failure to reflect deeply about the incident and about the nature of her relationship with Lacey sets the stage for a second, more terrifying incident.

      While Suri has been preoccupied with concerns about Ryan, Lacey has been engaged in some very dangerous behavior. She has been going out with Damien, the older boy who provided the girls with the alcohol the night of the dance. Using the same pressure tactics she used the night of the dance, Lacey convinces Suri to join Damien and his friend on a double date. At first reluctant, Suri finds herself driving around a strange neighbourhood in the back seat of Damien's truck, drinking, and smoking pot. Drunk and high, Suri and Lacey argue, Lacey insists on getting out, and Suri is abandoned. But the crisis isn't over yet. Willow and her friends happen to drive by the disoriented Suri. The group assaults Suri, cuts off her hair, puts her in the trunk of their car, and then dumps her beside the garbage in Suri's own neighbourhood.

      This crisis finally provokes the deep soul searching and honest self reflection that both girls require. Suri begins the process of healing and self-understanding by creating a giant collage of photos and art depicting the girls' friendship. Overwhelmed by guilt and deeply ashamed, Lacey closes herself off from everyone, and especially from Suri. But ultimately, the girls reconnect. They are able to draw on the history of their friendship and their genuine love for each other to make sense of what's happened.

      The well-drawn, realistic characters and exciting character-driven plot make for a very engaging story. While some of the minor characters lack dimension - Willow is outrageously evil for example - most readers will be focused on Suri and Lacey's story. Out of It will appeal to a range of readers, from grade 7 to reluctant readers in grade 10.

Highly Recommended.

Charlotte Duggan is a teacher-librarian in Winnipeg, MB.

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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