CM . . .
. Volume XXII Number 20. . . .January 29, 2016
Sixteen-year-old Ivy’s perfect boyfriend breaks up with her on the final day of exams in order to spend his last summer before university free from commitments. Lucan is struggling with a peanut allergy and his mother’s new boyfriend. He is also worried about his best friend’s abusive behaviour towards his girlfriend. When Ivy and Lucan meet at a family reunion, they develop a friendship that supports them through a challenging summer.
There is a lot going on in Delicate. While “issue” literature is popular with adolescents, there may be too many issues in Delicate to do any of them justice. Breakups, friend betrayals, social justice, peanut allergies, domestic violence, divorce, parental sex, family secrets, STIs: the issues layer and build up until it is difficult to find the plot amongst them. Each one could have been fully developed into an engaging story; together, it is just too much.
Lucan is quite a likeable character. His responses are relatable, both to his parents and to his best friend, Des. In fact, the story line around the best friend becoming an abusive boyfriend is the most interesting. It is written with complexity, and it is easy to feel some sympathy for Des. The peanut allergy seems to be a bit of an afterthought and not necessary to the story.
Ivy, on the other hand, is difficult to relate to. Her responses are usually self-serving, and she alternates between being too much of a push-over to being rigid. It was difficult to hope that Lucan and Ivy would continue with their friendship. Martin does a good job in drawing the secondary characters as full and multi-dimensional, with the possible exception of Lucan’s mother’s much-younger boyfriend. Again, another interesting storyline to explore, but there is not enough space in the book to do it justice.
While I recognize the need for some complexity in young adult novels, there is a difference between complexity and crowded. Delicate doesn’t live up to its name; it is too heavy-handed.
Karen Boyd is Assistant Superintendent Educational Programming with the River East Transcona School Division in Winnipeg, MB, and a former sessional lecturer in YA literature at the Faculty of Education, the University of Manitoba.
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