CM . . .
. Volume XXIII Number . . . .March 17, 2017
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.
Jen Seper is a Library Manager with Vancouver Island Regional Library.
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