CM . . .
. Volume XXIII Number 35. . . May 19, 2017
Declan, 16, has never felt he belonged in his life. He has always been a dreamer and found more affinity with imaginary friends than with flesh-and-blood North American classmates. So when he begins hearing the lyrical voice of a strange girl in his head, he thinks she is a product of his imagination…until Rebecca shows him visions of herself and of far-away places he feels compelled to find.
Though he is not certain she is real, Declan finds himself falling in love with Rebecca, driven by a burning need to meet her in person. His quest takes him to County Sligo, Ireland, and its “thin places”, locations where the real and spirit world seem to touch. Taken in by his Uncle Seamus, Declan finds himself torn between his own world and that of Rebecca, wondering where he truly belongs.
Imbued with Celtic lore and written in spare free verse novel form, Thin Places, by the prolific Lesley Choyce, captures a sense of loneliness and confusion common to many adolescents. Declan’s awkward attempts to connect with his peers make him feel even more isolated. When Rebecca’s voice calls him to explore the wild lands of his Irish heritage, he has a deep sense of coming home. As he searches the coast for the beach, the cottage and the stones Rebecca has shown him in visions, his yearning for her physical presence is also a yearning to belong and to be deeply known. The story is also a mystery, patching together clues from Irish legend and contemporary life to create a new reality with elements of both.
The verse novel style is straightforward and not particularly poetic, reflecting casual contemporary speech in both Declan’s interior monologue and his conversations with Rebecca, his parents and his uncle. Word placement and use of space act as cues for dialogue. It is a quick read, peppered with occasional atmospheric detail and reflecting a sense of alienation common to many young people. For young readers uncertain of the poetic form, it is an accessible first step.
The author of 90 books for adults, teens and children, Choyce has an ear for the angst and alienation of young people. Like his previous verse novel, Jeremy Stone, a finalist for the 2014 Governor General’s Literary Award, Thin Places navigates between physical and spirit worlds, concluding that reality – and belonging -- is somewhere in between.
Wendy Phillips is a teacher-librarian in Richmond, BC, and the author of the Governor General's Literary Award-winning young adult novel, Fishtailing.
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