CM . . .
. Volume XXI Number 7. . . .October 17, 2014
Rachel Watts, 17, hates living in the city. The only bright spot is her friendship with the troubled orphan James Mycroft, her ingenious 17-year-old neighbour who happens to have a passion for forensics. Watts’ opinion of city life is diminished even further when she and Mycroft discover the body of their homeless friend with his throat cut from ear to ear. The pair decide that the police are not doing enough to solve the murder, and they begin their own investigation. As the investigation becomes more and more dangerous, the two become more engrossed in the case – and in each other. The author uses the pair’s obsession with the case to develop a variety of themes. They must learn to balance their passion for the investigation with their education and family lives if they are to overcome challenges that face them.
Ellie Marney’s Every Breath utilizes the trendy first-person present tense that adds to the immediacy of the story and heightens the excitement the reader feels as the characters get into more and more dangerous situations. The setting of the story, Melbourne, Australia, has advantages and drawbacks for a Canadian audience. Canadians tend to find Australian and British colloquialisms, such as “cheers”, “bloke” and “tram”, charming, and such terms are easily understood based on their use and context; however, other Australianisms appear in the book that are less easily interpreted – especially for a teen audience. For example, there are city-specific terms such as “the Melbourne CBD” (Central Business District); the main character uses the phrase “all and sundry”, and also speaks of watching the “NRL replay”. This, however, is a minor problem, and, if teens take the trouble, all these terms are easily deciphered by Googling.
The novel is an excellent addition to the mystery genre. There are constant and clever references to Sherlock Holmes stories. From the main character’s names – Mycroft being the name of Sherlock Holmes’ older (and smarter) brother, and Watts, an obvious reference to Holmes’s sidekick, to Mycroft’s network of friends in the city that mirrors Sherlock Holmes’ “Baker Street Irregulars” (or “the homeless network” for fans of the BBC’s Sherlock). The clues that Mycroft and Watts discover are compelling enough to make the reader think, but subtle enough that the mystery is not overly obvious or predictable. And as in any worthwhile mystery, Marney includes a number of red herrings to throw the reader off course.
Although it is probably the weakest component of Every Breath, even the love story between Mycroft and Watts is written competently. Marney seems aware of the pitfalls that make other popular teen romances – particularly of the vampire genre – corny and overly sentimental and manages, for the most part, to avoid them. She touches on issues of teen sexuality tastefully, but in a way that teens won’t find trite or patronizing.
With likable characters and an exciting and fast-paced plot, Every Breath is an exceptional teen mystery novel. This one has the added benefit of being the first in a series, with a second title due to be published in the near future. Thus, if students become hooked on this book, they’ll almost certainly be doing more independent reading in the future.
Joe MacLachlan is a high school English teacher and teacher-librarian in Brampton, ON.
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other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
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.