CM . . .
. Volume XXII Number 7. . . .October 16, 2015
Ripple Effect is the story of two friends, Dana and Janelle, who begin to drift apart. The two girls have been inseparable, but a bike accident leaves Janelle in the hospital with a broken leg. Dana’s discomfort with hospitals keeps her from visiting her friend, and, as the summer continues on, Dana feels more distant. The first day at school arrives, and Dana is certain that she and Janelle will pick back up where they left off, but it is soon apparent that may not be the case. Over the summer, another girl, Julia, has been visiting Janelle, and the two girls seem very close. Julia takes it upon herself to carry Janelle’s bags and make sure she is comfortable. This also includes letting others, namely Dana, know how hard things are for Janelle and how Julia is the one who was there for her. Dana does make several attempts to talk with Janelle alone and explain why she wasn’t around, but circumstances never seem to allow it.
In addition, many of the things that Janelle and Dana used to do together, and were looking forward to now that they are in sixth grades, are things Janelle can’t do now because of her injury. Dana continues to be part of the track team and begins to make some new friends, but she also feels guilty that Janelle can’t participate. When volleyball tryouts come around, Julia makes Dana feel bad for even talking about them in front of Janelle. Dana begins to wonder if they have just grown too far apart to continue their friendship. After both girls audition for the school play, Janelle suggests that Dana take the lead, giving the two girls a chance to talk and begin to repair their friendship.
Ripple Effect is written as a third person narrative with a focus on Dana’s perspective on how things are going. Sylvia Taekema is able to bring a realistic and believable voice to a six grader’s perception of events. She also does a great job of tackling issues that many kids that age face, including friendships that grow apart, first crushes and beginning to find the places where you fit in. What I enjoyed most about the main character, Dana, is that she is very relatable. As she tries to work through how she feels about her changing friendship, the reader can understand why she makes the choices she does. I also like that, when Dana does have negative thoughts about Janelle or Julia, she often pulls back after and recognizes that maybe she’s being unfair. Taekema also does a really good job of giving the characters dimensions. While Dana could mope around all the time, and she does on occasion, she also steps out of her comfort zone and takes risks, trying new experience that help her grow as a character.
My one criticism of the book is that, while it is written from Dana's perspective, with Dana feeling she is entirely to blame for the faltering friendship, Janelle's role in the girls’ drifting apart is minimized. Janelle could have called or reached out to Dana, knowing she wasn't comfortable in hospitals. As the girls are reconciling, Janelle does apologize briefly, but it still feels like Dana is left feeling more at fault.
I strongly recommend Ripple Effect for kids in the 9-12 age group, and for classroom, school and public libraries. The messages of perseverance and looking for ways to reconnect with lost friends are both important themes in adolescence. This relatable story will appeal to this age group and is both entertaining and thought-provoking.
Georgette Nairn is a teacher at Harold Hatcher School in Winnipeg, MB.
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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.