CM . . .
. Volume XXII Number 30. . . .April 8, 2016
Killer Drop is Mette Bach’s latest title for the Lorimer’s “SideStreets” series which consists of short, topical novels written for reluctant readers and featuring real world themes. Killer Drop is told from the perspective of Marcus, a handsome, charming affluent trust fund teen. Marcus is in his senior year of high school and best friends with Tom Lee, an underprivileged Chinese scholarship student with the unfortunate nickname of “Worm”. Marcus protects and defends Tom and offers to help Tom hook up with his crush, Yasmin Alvarez, while on the annual grade 12 ski trip to Whistler. Yasmin is half Catholic half Muslim, on the rebound from a recent breakup, and eager to take risks and live in the moment as Marcus does.
Things start to unravel for the trio as Yasmin and Marcus have a secret late night sexual encounter in an elevator. It then goes from bad to worse as Marcus encourages the others to disregard the rules of the school and the ski hill and “go for the powder” and ski out of bounds. Yasmin’s death and Tom’s spinal cord injury and paralysis are the result of this reckless endeavor, while Marcus emerges physically unscathed.
Cursed with stereotypical, self-absorbed, rich parents, Marcus is on his own to navigate the fallout from the accident. Tom shuts Marcus out, and Marcus is left to experience guilt, remorse and confusion on his own, to the point of even contemplating suicide. The story concludes with Marcus and Tom renewing their friendship, with the help of Tom’s forgiving, hardworking father. Tom makes plans to move ahead with his new life, and Marcus renounces the privileged private school future his parents had planned.
Bach deserves points for setting and language. This quick read is set in British Colombia, and references to locales and landmarks are refreshing. The authentic dialogue and slang are typical for a student in grade 12. Bach is a high school teacher and effectively captures the daily conversations and social media postings for this age group. While the mature content is strongly alluded to in the title, and the climax is plausible and perhaps even relatable for some readers who ski, I found fault with the accident’s aftermath. The trio has defied the rules of safety and taken a stupid risk, one person is dead and another paralyzed, and yet the officials do not check Marcus for injury and place him alone in a cab for home. Once home, Marcus does not tell his mother what happened, and there is no communication from the school, leaving him to return to school on Monday morning and deal with a public announcement about the accident. Such a casual response to the tragedy is not plausible in this time of mental health awareness, school accountability and the prevalence of social media.
While Marcus did befriend and share his wealth with Tom, I found Marcus to be an unsympathetic character with few redeeming qualities and was, therefore, never invested enough to feel his despair after the accident. The story may have been better told from Tom’s disadvantaged point of view and his journey through paralysis and rehab. Also, more focus on Yasmin’s internal struggles with her culture, religion and restrictive upbringing in contrast with Marcus’ world would have made for an interesting and timely tale. Readers may relate to Marcus having disengaged parents, but I assume there are very few teenagers who would relate to his extreme wealth and pampered lifestyle, popularity and lack of responsibility. In the final chapter, Marcus and Tom, friends again after an unbelievably short period of anger on Tom’s part, burn items from their lives before the accident. As with some of the other scenarios in Killer Drop, Marcus choosing to burn his trust fund papers left me confused and apathetic.
Recommended with Reservations.
Cate Carlyle is a librarian at Mount Saint Vincent University in Halifax, NS. Cate has never skied but did wear ski boots once while drinking hot chocolate in a chalet.
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