________________ CM . . . . Volume xxi Number 25 . . . . March 6, 2015


Eye Sore. (Orca Currents).

Melanie Jackson.
Victoria, BC: Orca, 2015.
125 pp., pbk., pdf & epub, $9.95 (pbk.).
ISBN 978-1-4598-0771-6 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-4598-0773-0 (pdf), ISBN 978-1-4598-0774-7 (epub).

Grades 5-8 / Ages 10-13.

Review by Meredith Harrison-Lim.

** /4

Reviewed from Advance Reading Copy.


I realized I was punching the air, like in my dance routine. The men from the fence company watched me in surprise.

"This is how I think," I explained to them.

They glanced at each other and shrugged, as if to say, Kids. They went back to jotting down notes.

I didn't care what they thought. I was remembering something else.

Brody Bilk, showing up at the Eye to make friendly. Brody had wandered into the woods. When I followed, he aimed his camera up into the dark evergreens. What kind of photographer would do that? No photographer. Just like a person who mistook a cardinal for a goldfinch was no bird-watcher.

People were awfully anxious for me to think they were looking up.

Maybe it was time I looked down.


Chaz Higgins is a teenager in British Columbia who loves to dance. He wants to spend his summer practicing his dance routine at camp in order to prepare for his community center’s talent contest. Unfortunately for Chaz, his father wants him to help run “the Eye” over the summer, a Ferris wheel in North Vancouver that his dad hopes will be immensely successful. Unfortunately for Chaz, in addition to not having his time free to practice, he also suffers from vertigo and struggles to hide it from his father. Days prior to the grand opening of the Eye, residents begin to protest the Ferris wheel due to a newspaper article written by the father of one of Chaz's classmates, Brody Bilk. The Ferris wheel also begins to attract vandalism. The negative press and the need for heightened security measures place Chaz's father in a precarious financial state. While Chaz's father tries to find a solution to his failing business venture, Chaz tries to improve his relationship with Brody Bilk upon his father's request. In the process of doing so, Chaz becomes friends with Brody’s cousin, Lauren, who is staying with the Bilks over the summer. He also learns of strange noises that are coming from the Bilk household. This causes Chaz to worry for Lauren and to distrust Brody’s father, Mr. Bilk, even further. Once Chaz understands the reason why Mr. Bilk wants the Eye to fail and what is the cause for the terrifying sounds coming from the Bilk’s home, he has to race against time, and fight against his vertigo, to prevent his father from making the mistake of the lifetime.

     This mystery novel focuses on Chaz, a teenage boy in British Columbia in a contemporary setting. While he quickly forms a friendship with Lauren, and interacts with his classmate Brody and his coworker Moe, the relationships between these characters are not explored in-depth, which makes some of the details provided about these characters feel out of place. Even though both Chaz's and Brody's fathers are key characters in the plot of Eye Sore, given the short length of the book, these characters do not have the chance to become fully developed. However, as the story is told from Chaz's perspective in first person narrative, readers are aware of the various tensions that are between Chaz and his father, such as his dad’s desire for him to be practical and earn money in order to pursue his goals, which provides this relationship with some additional credibility.

     A strength pertaining to Chaz’s character development is in the details provided concerning his reactions while facing conflict and stress. It seems quite natural that Chaz would try to avoid his father after causing him stress, or speaking coldly with Lauren when he felt certain that her cousin was vandalizing his father’s business venture. Unfortunately, some other featured characteristics of Chaz are not as relatable. Chaz likes dancing and does so at inopportune times in order to improve his thought processes. This interest in dance is highlighted throughout the story, and, for some readers, the details provided about his movements and his idolization of Gene Kelly may be very engaging. Other readers will likely find this behaviour that, at times, is all consuming - such as when he breaks out into dance without realizing - unbelievable and difficult to relate to.

     The pace of the story moves along quickly. While it seems implausible that two grown men would include their teenage sons in their business interactions as much as the fathers in this story do, the introduction of the protests and the following bouts of sabotage are well timed in the book so that the reader’s interest is maintained. The details that lead Chaz to understand who is behind the attacks on the Ferris wheel and the driving cause for this behaviour are woven together very well. Readers will most likely be surprised by who is the principal actor behind the plot to have the Ferris wheel forced out of business. Unfortunately the mystery behind the strange sounds coming from the Bilk’s home is resolved with far less satisfaction. Also, while the details that lead to Chaz’s solving the Ferris wheel mystery are well integrated, older readers may not be so engaged in either storyline that they attempt to determine the cause of these problems themselves.


Meredith Harrison-Lim is a MLIS graduate working for the Federal Government in the National Capital Region.

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

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