________________ CM . . . . Volume XXIII Number . . . .March 17, 2017


Subject to Change.

Karen Nesbitt.
Victoria, BC: Orca, 2017.
276 pp., trade pbk., pdf & epub, $14.95 (pbk.).
ISBN 978-1-4598-1146-1 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-4598-1147-8 (pdf), ISBN 978-1-4598-1148-5 (epub).

Grades 7-11 / Ages 12-16.

Review by Jennifer Seper.

***˝ /4



I wave to the guys as the bus pulls away and leaves me standing on the street alone. There’s a storm building inside me. A ball of energy is sitting on my chest, making me want to cry or laugh or scream at the top of my lungs like I’m a crazy person. I want to understand why I feel this way. I want to know why life has to be so confusing, how you can expect a bang and get a fizzle, and how you can want someone and hate them, all at the same time.


Life is complicated. Deep down, Declan loves his family but hates how his brother only comes home to get money, and how they can only afford a trailer since his dad took off. He loves his job at the rink, and his best friends, but he can’t seem to get a break at school – he’s failing history and has a record 21 detentions. Just when he thinks that there is nowhere to turn, he meets Leah and her family. Leah has everything that Declan doesn’t: a fancy house, parents that are together, good grades. She also has a grandmother who is a holocaust survivor. It is through meeting her that Declan begins to see the bigger picture of his life and begins to see his role in the rage that has permeated his life. This new awareness allows Declan to slowly begin to deal with the absence of his father and begins the foundation of their new relationship.

     Subject to Change covers some heavy issues through the personal perspective of Declan. Written in the first person, the book quickly draws the reader into Declan’s life and vividly illustrates the confusion, elation, pain, and self-doubt typical of adolescence. Nesbitt does a great job of personalizing issues such as homosexuality, divorce, substance abuse, racism, and poverty. Not only is Declan grappling with these issues, but through his budding friendship with Leah’s grandmother, he begins to see how his experiences fit into the larger picture of society, and history.

     Declan’s voice guides the readers through his experiences, and it is touching to see how his character develops and changes. Declan’s voice, while the main driver of the story, is also the book’s weakness in some areas. There are certain times when Declan’s voice seems a bit stereotypical and a touch heavy-handed. It seems as through Nesbitt is trying to cram a few too many emotions into one character, and this bogs the story down in a few areas.

     All in all, Subject to Change is a gritty, touching, well-told story with great character development. The great strength of Subject to Change is not only the personalization of important societal issues, but the hope portrayed by Declan’s emotional growth over the course of the novel. This book would be a great choice for adolescent reluctant readers. Tween and teen readers will likely identify with some of Declan’s struggles and respond to his inner dialogue. Readers will also appreciate the open and honest portrayal of a youth dealing with some of the issues facing many in our society today.

Highly Recommended.

Jen Seper is a Library Manager with Vancouver Island Regional Library.

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.

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