________________ CM . . . . Volume XXII Number 35. . . .May 13, 2016


Trap Jam. (SideStreets).

Steven Barwin.
Toronto, ON: James Lorimer, 2016.
189 pp., trade pbk. & ebook, $12.95 (pbk.).
ISBN 978-1-4594-1100-5 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-4594-1101-2 (ebook).

Grades 9 and up / Ages 14 and up.

Review by Chasity Findlay.

***½ /4



Lucas lunged again at Raymond. “How long you been seeing her behind my back?”

Freaked out, Raymond shouted, “No!” He reached for the college acceptance letter that had fallen on the filthy bathroom floor. He was met with a fierce punch in the face from Lucas.

Raymond hit the ground hard. I tried to pull Lucas back as he kicked him repeatedly. But drunk and enraged, Lucas was too strong.

I screamed, “Lucas, please stop!” But the loud music from the other side of the door drowned out my voice.

My first instinct was to go get help, but I didn’t want to leave Lucas alone with Raymond. I hoped the door would open. Someone. Anyone.

Nothing. I screamed again at Lucas, begging him to stop. He just kept delivering more hits. Blood splattered up from Raymond’s face.

I fell to the floor. I crawled on my hands and knees toward Raymond. Tears flooded my face, my body heaved with sobs. Finally Lucas stopped his attack and stepped back.

I bent over Raymond. He was bloodied. His nose was flattened. His right eye was swollen with a grotesque gash. He twitched sporadically.

Lucas picked me up by my arms. He dragged me away from Raymond and through the washroom doors. He took me out through a side door, to an alley. I tried to fight him, to stay with Raymond. But I was scared I would end up on the floor with him.

“Why’d you sleep with him? He’s a frickin’ dishwasher.”

I screamed, “I didn’t!” through tears and spit. “What’s wrong with you?”

He grabbed my shoulders and squared me to him. “What’s wrong with me is that I care about you. God, isn’t it obvious?”

Strangers eyeballed me.

I could barely keep it together on the streetcar. Images of Lucas beating on poor Raymond flashed in my mind, a series of stills set to replay. Why didn’t I try harder to stop Lucas? Who was this guy I thought I knew? How could I have just left Raymond there? Was he okay and what would happen now? I had more questions than answers, and one inescapable burning point boiled and churned inside me. This was my fault.


Olivia, 16, has been offered what she believes to be the opportunity of a lifetime—the chance to be part of a band with two college students. She could not be happier to be able to pursue her passion—playing drums and writing and performing original music. Along with the gig comes the privilege of hanging out in clubs to perform and the free drinks that come along with it. It sounds like all her dreams are coming true. The problem is, Olivia is still in high school and has to lie to her bandmates and her dad to keep up the charade.

     Everything seems to be going great until Olivia begins pursuing a romantic relationship with her bandmate, Lucas. She soon discovers that Lucas’ passion for both the music and the relationship are a bit too much for her. Things spiral out of control when Lucas attacks Olivia’s friend Raymond after seeing them talking, leaving Raymond unconscious and critically injured. Blindsided, shocked, and confused, Olivia goes along with Lucas’ plan to go on the run from both the police and Raymond’s brother who is looking for revenge. By the time Olivia realizes that she is in over her head, it may be be too late for her to escape Lucas’ abusive, obsessive grasp.

     Trap Jam is part of Lorimer’s “SideStreets” series. “SideStreets” is a high interest, low reading level collection of teen fiction. The books are relatively short in length and are written with the intent of engaging even the most reluctant readers with their real-life topics and authentic characters. The books in the series consist of short chapters, a fast-paced plot, large print, and straightforward vocabulary with the intention of grabbing and maintaining readers’ attention.

     This book engages readers with some serious themes that are relevant to teens’ lives. Trap Jam explores the ideas of identity, growing up, family, and healthy dating relationships. It provides teens with a cautionary tale showing some of the dangers of trying to grow up too fast and keeping secrets from your family. It also gives readers a glimpse of what a very unhealthy dating relationship looks like and will help them recognize some of the warning signs. Although some of the topics are quite serious, it also covers the light-hearted themes of the love of music and pursuing your dreams.

     Trap Jam reveals itself as a fast-paced read right from the beginning. The plot takes off in the first few pages as Olivia auditions for the band and is likely to continually hold readers’ attention as suspense builds. Olivia is a character that readers will see as both realistic and relatable. It is likely that readers will find themselves connecting with Olivia’s pursuit of her dreams and her desire to fit in with the older crowd.

     I think this book will appeal to a wide audience of young adult readers. The realistic and engaging content, relatable characters, and fast-moving plot will be of interest to both reluctant readers and strong readers looking for an interesting read. The book is likely to encourage readers to think critically about the unhealthy relationship that Olivia finds herself in and develop empathy for her situation. Trap Jam is an engaging and realistic read that is sure to grab readers’ attention and hold it throughout.

Highly Recommended.

Chasity Findlay is a high school English teacher in Winnipeg, MB, and a graduate student at the University of Manitoba.

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

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