________________ CM . . . . Volume XXII Number . . . .September 25, 2015


Sleight of Hand. (Orca Soundings).

Natasha Deen.
Victoria, BC: Orca, 2015.
138 pp., pbk., pdf & epub, $9.95 (pbk.).
ISBN 978-1-4598-1120-1 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-4598-1121-8 (pdf), ISBN 978-1-4598-1122-5 (epub).

Grades 5-8 / Ages 10-13.

Review by Sagan Morrow.

*** /4

Reviewed from Advance Reading Copy.


I hate that smile. That smile made me trust him. And why give me the week to think it over? I answer the question as soon as it enters my mind. Because he likes the power. Because he’s going to enjoy watching me twist for the next seven days.

“As long as you work for me and stay loyal, you’re safe. I’m as loyal as you are, and I’ll protect you. And I don’t want you to be afraid that someone might start talking to you about the arrangement and put you in a delicate situation. I have eyes and ears everywhere. If anyone tried to jam you up, I’d know.”

I catch the threat not so subtly hidden in the declaration of protection. If I try to talk to anyone, he’ll know.


Sleight of Hand is a compelling story set in the present day about Javvan Malhotra, a high-school-aged boy with good intentions who gets caught up in a criminal plan. Caught between choosing right from wrong and needing to build up the courage to stand up to immoral adults, he must enlist the help of his friends if he has any chance of proving his innocence.

     Written in the first person, this crime novella explores what happens when people make poor decisions… and what they can do to fix their mistakes and make better choices in the future.

     Readers first meet protagonist Javvan Malhotra during a job interview – one, readers are given to understand very quickly, among many. The story unfolds as readers learn why he’s been having such a hard time finding a job, thanks to his impulsive law-breaking in an attempt to teach a bully a lesson. The story moves along at an even pace, introducing readers to Javvan and helping them to understand his motives and sympathize with the character, for the first three chapters of the book.

     By chapter four, the story really picks up pace: Javvan is set up by authorities he thought he could trust, and he must race against them to prove his innocence and put an end to their life of crime. The fast-paced, can’t-put-it-down tempo of the story continues right up until the second-last chapter while the final chapter neatly ties up the last loose ends.

     As a fairly short story, Sleight of Hand will be nonthreatening to beginner and advanced readers alike. Unfortunately, in part due to the brevity of the book, readers are left with a few questions about the side characters (such as with the policewoman who is so keen to assist Javvan – who exactly is she, and why is she so supportive of him immediately?). What the book lacks in character development, however, it certainly makes up for in plot.

     Although some of the language in the book and the characters themselves may, at first glance appear mature for a middle-school audience, the lessons in this novella are very appropriate for the age group. Addressing issues of learning from making mistakes, the danger of making snap judgments about people, and the importance of standing up for oneself, Deen’s Sleight of Hand encourages critical thinking and compassion between the pages of an exciting story of crime. She has done a beautiful job of relating to youth and getting “on their side” while subtly weaving in valuable life lessons that readers can take away and apply to their own lives.

     Sleight of Hand will be an entertaining addition to any young reader’s library!


Sagan Morrow is a freelance writer/editor and professional lifestyle blogger (SaganMorrow.com) in Winnipeg, MB.

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.
Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.

CM Home | Next Review | (Table of Contents for This Issue - September 25, 2015.) | Back Issues | Search | CM Archive | Profiles Archive

Updated: October 17, 2014 (hsd)