________________ CM . . . . Volume XXIII Number 21 . . . . February 10, 2017


Saving Stevie.

Eve Richardson.
Markham, ON: Red Deer Press, 2017.
227 pp., trade pbk., $12.95.
ISBN 978-0-88995-540-0.

Subject Headings:
Homeless persons-Juvenile fiction.
Adoption-Juvenile fiction.
Family problems-Juvenile fiction.
Babies-Juvenile fiction.
Brothers and sisters-Juvenile fiction.

Grades 9-11 / Ages 14-16.

Review by Kate Longley.

**½ /4



When I'd thought of where to run to, Dawn had seemed perfect. She knew foster homes were bad. Knew 'bout needing to run, finding a safe place to hide.

But now I wondered, what if she doesn't like babies?

What if she just plain doesn't want me?

And there she was, waiting for an answer. I'd tell her, then I'd have to go somewhere else. Only, I didn't know where
else was.

"I've left home. I need somewhere to stay."


Not a good start. All the stress since me and Dad got halfway through the Hawaiian pizza welled up inside, choking me.

I didn't wanna cry. Couldn't think properly when I cried.

Dawn opened the door a little wider, letting the dog shove its head out. It didn't look as mean as it sounded. Floppy ears. Bangs that needed trimming.

"What happened? Did someone hurt you?"

"No, nothing like that."

"Then why… look, you better come inside."

Phew! At least she was gonna listen.

I shoved the laundry bag through the door. Kicked my boots off. Stepped inside.

Eve Richardson's debut novel, Saving Stevie, is set in Toronto, and it's a fast-paced, gritty, realistic read that doesn't shy away from difficult subjects. Richardson tells her story in the first-person through the voice of Minto who thinks and speaks in her own kind of teen slang. Minto is only 13 when her older sister Tiff's water breaks prematurely and she gives birth to Stevie at home with only Minto to help. When Tiff goes missing and her parents feel she ran away from the responsibility of raising her son, the strain on the working poor family becomes too much. Minto's mother is hospitalized after an accident brought on by her preoccupation with worries about Tiff. To make matters worse, Minto and Tiff's parents can't afford to take time off work or to pay for child care for Stevie. Lacking other options, they decide to put Tiff's baby into foster care. Minto, who had become one of Stevie's primary caregivers after Tiff's disappearance, has become too attached to let go. She acts out of desperation, running away with Stevie onto the wintery streets of Toronto.

      What keeps the book buoyant among all the potential misery is the caring and help Minto receives from residents of a homeless encampment called "Shacktown" where she has come for shelter with Stevie. Richardson's characters are not superficial, and even in the spare dialogue and quick pace, they come to life as real people with cares of their own, rather than characters injected just to serve Minto's needs in the story. The characters include Dawn, a First Nations artist who takes Minto and Stevie into her small abode in Shacktown; Ginger, the mother of Matthew, a differently-abled man, who connects with Minto and learns her story, Scrap, a dumpster diver who takes Minto under his wing and helps her find food, and a group of runaway young adults, Palma, Cass, Damian, Lex & Cody, who try to get by on the street doing sex work, and who often seek to escape their situation through drugs and alcohol.

      Minto tries to stay above the fray but finds she needs friends to survive, and this puts her in a situation of relying on others for basic survival, from finding food, to caring for Stevie. When those she is relying on have troubles of their own, things begin to spiral out of control. Readers are kept on high alert throughout this book through the intensity of spare, quick-moving dialect which reads kind of like an urban survival story. The story forefronts loss but also the importance of family, friendship, love and the bonds that hold one to the other or break them apart. The first person narrative style can be disjointed at times, as can some of the imagery, but it is also beautiful, and Minto gives readers vivid descriptions of the world around her. Readers see the world through Minto's eyes and wonder whom they can trust and fear constantly for her and Stevie's safety. At the same time, there are unexpected moments of beauty as Minto explores the natural winter landscape around Shacktown. It is also impactful to see how Minto, with Dawn's encouragement, regains her ability to express herself through art.

      Since the story is told through Minto's young, naïve and, at times, confused perspective, readers are often left feeling a bit apprehensive and out of control on the sidelines. It's easy to be upset with Minto, and there were moments when I had difficulty believing that she could leave her apparently loving family without a word. That said, there is a lot of learning to be had for readers if they put their judgments aside because Minto is confronting a world that most of us have never seen firsthand. Some images, language, and descriptions, may be disturbing, and realistic descriptions of drug and alcohol use, bodily functions, and oblique references to sex work by characters other than the protagonist make this story appropriate for a mature reader. However, some older teens may have trouble relating to such a young protagonist.

Recommended with Reservations.

Kate Longley is the Teen Services Librarian at the North Vancouver City Library in North Vancouver, BC.

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

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