________________ CM . . . . Volume XXII Number 23 . . . . February 19, 2016


Hannah Both Ways.

Rosie Greenway.
Winnipeg, MB: Rebelight, 2015.
218 pp., trade pbk. & ebook, $14.99 (pbk.).
ISBN 978-0-9948399-4-7 (pbk.), ISBN 978-0-9948399-5-4 (ebook).

Grades 11 and up / Ages 16 and up.

Review by Gillian Lapenskie.

**** /4


If Rosie Greenway's first YA novel, Hannah Both Ways, is any indication of the quality of her future works, Greenway has a promising career ahead of her. An author who clearly understands the world of teenagers, she presents the reader with a protagonist who is immediately engaging. The way Hannah carefully negotiates every day—at home, at her high school—is unique and intriguing, and reades can't help but want to know more about her.

      Hannah lives with her mother, a cocktail waitress who likes to hook up with guys from the clubs where she works. Her mom is perpetually hoping for a fresh start, which means that Hannah has to be the "serial" new kid at school, always starting over and never able to hold onto her friends for long.

      It's nearing the end of her grade 12 year, and Hannah is persona non grata at her school, after an incident at a New Year's Eve party blew up on social media. Greenway takes her time releasing the details of the event and its aftermath. Readers learn a bit more when a guidance counselor asks Hannah a question that is loaded with subtext:

"I gather you've been having some problems for the past couple of weeks, Hannah?"

I stared at the tell-tale sliver of photograph spilling from the folder for a few seconds. When my voice emerged, resigned is the only way to describe it. "Where did you get the pictures?"

"We received an anonymous letter yesterday indicating that you've been bullied on Twitter. Twitter usernames and the identities behind them were revealed and the pictures were attached."

I pointed to the folder and tried to meet her eyes. "Hey, it's really not that big of a deal. Whoever posted them on Twitter deleted the account. The pictures are all gone." My attempts to shrug the incident off were futile.

"Hannah, this is a very big deal. Using social media as a defamation tool is a serious offense. We can't simply pretend it hasn't happened."

I wrapped my arms around myself, squeezed my eyes shut and rocked back and forth, trying to convince myself none of it was happening.

      Readers will be sympathetic to Hannah and the loneliness she experiences through being ostracized (though she certainly wouldn't admit this to herself). She's prickly, but not to an aggravating level, as with some YA heroines. Hannah has, understandably, come to rely on rituals she has created in her daily routine to help her cope with her emotional pain. "I'm alone inside my head so much that I can't help overthinking" is a sentiment that will resonate with a lot of teen readers.

      Greenway's love of words and wordplay is evident throughout the novel, and she transfers this passion to Hannah. As a self-proclaimed word nerd, Hannah finds solace in the library and a particular ritual she invented that involves locating a new book every day. The library is also where she meets Lucas, another new kid. Lucas is an excellent foil to Hannah: he's approachable, friendly, and open. He reveals that high school is not the easiest place for him to be, either, due to his dyslexia. As well, like Hannah, Lucas is struggling to deal with a misunderstood incident in his past that threatens to define him. It seems inevitable that these two teen characters will eventually connect in meaningful ways.

      Greenway's ability to capture the essence of high school life is impressive as she moves beyond shifting alliances and the politics of who's in and who's out, to areas like the resource room, and what it's like to be a special-needs student. Also, the author expertly depicts the culture of judgment that is present in any high school and the ways in which it can be amplified by social media. The novel raises questions about these issues, as well as the role of victim-shaming: issues that could--and, I believe–should be discussed in high school classrooms and book clubs.

      Ultimately, Hannah Both Ways illustrates the importance of connecting with others, of really getting to know them and what their needs are. Even Hannah has to learn this lesson: that the people in her life, and the situations they're in, may not be what they appear to be. Greenway has as many surprises in store for the reader as she does for Hannah herself.

      Hannah Both Ways would be a great choice for high school libraries. It would also be ideal in a grade 11 or 12 English class (with students mature enough to handle the sexual themes and situations) and could easily be tied in with a media unit on social networking and cyberbullying.

Highly Recommended.

Gillian Lapenskie is a teacher-librarian in Barrie, ON.

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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