CM . . .
. Volume XXI Number 2. . . .September 12, 2014
Later, Derek Maugham will leave Jordie’s house to go to his own empty house—empty because his parents are at his grandparents’ house for Christmas—and retrieve said bracelet to prove his innocence. When he goes on this quest, events no one anticipates occur. Derek becomes the second person to die this December night.
The first is retired teacher Elise Diehl. Elise lives with her husband, Police Lieutenant, Michael (Mike) Diehl, in the house Elise’s father built. She’s lived there all of her life, and when Mike married her, he moved into the house they shared with Elise’s father until his death two months earlier. That was when Mike took a leave of absence from policing to look after his wife because, several years ago, Elise developed Alzheimer’s Disease. Alzheimer’s is what caused her to retire from the profession she loved and which, in return for what she gave them, gave her the love of all of her students. Now, Elise’s memories come and go. The ability to sort out current places and people and events is all but gone. She is known to wander. On this sub-zero night, she wanders away from her home, and freezes to death.
Two deaths in the same night in this small town. The only connection between them is the fact that Derek Maugham’s house is across the street from Elise Diehl’s house. Everyone connected with each of the victims is devastated. No one, including Lieutenant Diehl—who now returns to work to take his mind off Elise’s death— can figure it all out. But for a few reasons, not the least of which is her own self-preservation, Derek’s girlfriend, Jordie Cross, needs to find the truth. An award-winning author of 60+ books for young adult readers, Norah McClintock knows the world of teens—the issues that enlighten them, and those that cloud their judgement. In About That Night, she explores several types of relationships: a difficult teenage love triangle; siblings; teens and parents; parents and their parents; husbands and wives; and authority’s power, and limits. What’s safe? What isn’t? Sometimes the lines get blurred.
Jordie has a tough road. Not only is her 14-year-old sister, Carly, an adversary who doesn’t know when to shut up; her ex-boyfriend, Ronan Barthe, is the kind of guy no one can read; the kind of guy who ties a girl’s stomach in a knot of fury at the same time her stomach roils with a different kind of heat; the kind of guy made for trouble, and who can drag a girl down with him. Derek is different. He’s as readable as an open book. An athlete with a score of friends. And thoughtful. Definitely not someone who deserves to die, especially the way he does. A death his mother blames Jordie for, and the cops eventually suspect she had a part in, too.
It’s a function of this genre for swearing to be absent, or almost so, but every kid has heard the words, and most teens curse readily. The rougher language in this book is entirely appropriate for the language 17 and 18-year-olds use. However, because it’s used so sparingly, it jumps out like a sore thumb, and in turn, that makes it seem out of character for the characters using it.
The author skillfully uses an omniscient point of view to allow readers into the thoughts and lives of all the main players. Jordie is the person we see most, but Derek, Ronin, Carly, Elise, and the two detectives on the case of Derek’s death, Lieutenant Diehl and the observant colleague who becomes his partner in this case, Neil Tritt, all come to life. The vehicle that drives the story is the disappearance of a bracelet. And it turns out the bracelet has significant meaning. But it is the complex relationships that will catch and hold readers’ interest.
In many ways, About That Night is a ‘formula’ book. There are plenty of clichés. The requisite love-dilemma Jordie faces, along with the ‘bad boy,’ ‘good boy’ characters of her two boyfriends—and the stereotypical parental reactions to each; the way the finger points when the investigation into Derek’s murder gets into full swing; and the teenagers’ instinctive responses to the questions and problems they are faced with, are all stock-in-trade. What isn’t formula is the number and depth of the issues explored, and the handle the author has on what a turned-upside-down teenage world looks, sounds and feels like. And an ending that gives pause.
About That Night is a fast-paced read that will hold readers’ attention from beginning to end, and perhaps leave them with questions they didn’t expect.
Jocelyn Reekie is a writer, editor and publisher in Campbell River, BC.
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