CM . . . . Volume XXII Number 38 . . . . June 3, 2016
Eric Connelly is 17 years old and just finishing high school. His dad has more or less planned his future for him – university, a law degree, a career in politics. All Eric has to do is work hard, conform to his dad's expectations and live up to the "Connelly Man" standards so clearly set out for him. Into this organized world comes Jordan, a mysterious and rebellious character who hopes to "free" Capilano from what he terms 'hypocrisy and bullshit'. The boys invite Haley and Paige to join their Suicide Pack group, and their first fixes for the town seem to stem from the boredom of rich kids who don't have to work for the summer and whose futures seem more or less assured. But joyriding and shoplifting soon turn into far more serious crimes. Eric is seduced by Jordan's charisma, literally and figuratively, and happily takes part in the various plans the group creates. But later on, people begin to get hurt, and Jordan seems to be impervious to the effects of his actions. Haley and Paige want to reconsider what the group is doing, but Eric is torn between his affection for Jordan, his need for the adrenalin rush, his chance to finally defy his father, and his inherent understanding that what he is doing is just plain wrong. He needs to decide if he's in or out.
Eric, nicknamed E for most of the novel, is one of the two leading characters, and he goes from being top student at his high school to helping plan and carry out various fixes. In many ways, he appears weak, even if likeable. First he obligingly goes along with his father's plans for his future, never really considering what he truly wants for himself. Jordan's strong personality completely overwhelms E, and Jordan becomes simply another role model for E to follow. E is passive and wants to please, and it is only in the final pages of the book that he has the guts to think for himself and act accordingly.
Jordan is an interesting character who appears to be psychopathic in the extreme. He calmly and coldly executes plans which disrupt Capilano, preying on those he deems to be somehow socially unacceptable or menaces to his understanding of society. Jordan has an extremely rich family, but they have apparently given him no guidelines, restrictions or boundaries about his behaviour. The Suicide Pack escalates from minor incidents to major crimes, and eventually readers understand that much of this is about Jordan's need for attention and his desire to be remembered, even if for all the wrong reasons.
The two girls provide interesting female perspectives throughout the novel but, like E, seem to lack the power to think on their own until well into the story. E's father is a stereotypical "man's man" who wants to direct his son's life to the point of bullying him into the "Connelly standards" even after E discovers that his dad's past is less than the shining example Dad would have him believe.
The story moves quickly from one "fix", i.e. escapade, to another, and the novel increases in suspense and intensity as readers begin to understand Jordan's objectives and the skewed reasoning behind his thinking. Matthews accentuates this speed and movement by writing in very short chapters, occasionally with only a few words on a page, giving the sense that he is almost tweeting the action as it happens. Now and then there are chapters of a page or two which fill in more details, but the overall style is staccato and filled with dialogue which moves events along at a quick pace.
This style will have appeal for many readers, especially those who might shy away from a novel of over 500 pages. A quick scan through the book will help convince more reluctant readers that there is a great deal of white space and that the novel is actually quite a quick read. Another characteristic of Matthews's style is often to editorialize, and this may or may not appeal to readers. These editorial 'notes' are often sarcastic and/or ironic and help form the overall tone of the novel.
The Fixes is an irreverent look at society and how a handful of mega-rich kids decide they might be able to change what they dislike. Readers should be prepared for the language, sex, drugs and other topics which form part of the everyday landscape of these teens. While not for the faint of heart, The Fixes lures readers into a twisted, yet amazing, story, and readers will find themselves on the edge of their seats knowing that nothing good is likely to be the outcome of the book and yet fascinated by the train wreck as it takes place right in front of them.
Ann Ketcheson, a retired high school teacher-librarian and classroom teacher of English and French, lives in Ottawa, ON.
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