CM . . . . Volume XXIV Number . . . . November 10, 2017
Learning Seventeen. (Orca Soundings).
Victoria, BC: Orca, January, 2018.
134 pp., pbk., pdf & epub, $9.95 (pbk.).
ISBN 978-1-4598-1553-7 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-4598-1554-4 (pdf), ISBN 978-1-4598-1555-1 (epub).
Grades 10 and up / Ages 15 and up.
Review by Christina Pike.
Reviewed from Advance Reading Copy.
“How are you , Jane?’ he asks, shuffling the papers around on his desk. “Any journal entries for me?”
I hand over my journal, and he leafs through, taking a few minutes to read. After a while he stops. “You know,” he says, “this won’t work if you don’t take it seriously.”
I shrug. “How can I? I don’t believe any of this Jesus stuff.”
He bristles at that. “Maybe a little faith would do you some good.”
“Meaning if you put your trust in the Lord, you might find freedom from your sins. Jane, it isn’t your fault that you’re … you’re different.”
“You mean gay?”
Terry coughs. “You’re not gay, just confused.”
I roll my eyes. “No, Terry, I’m not confused.”
Jane, 17, has been placed at New Hope Academy by her father and stepmother. New Hope Academy is a private Baptist school whose mission is to offer therapy and help to out of control teens. It is grounded in faith in God. Jane is out of control and gay. Her dad and stepmother do not feel they can control her. Jane does not want to stay at New Hope. She does not believe in God nor does she believe she needs to be saved. It isn’t until she meets red-haired Hannah that she begins to see that No Hope is not all that bad. When Hannah leaves, June is more determined than ever to get back to her and begin their life together. It isn’t until Jane goes looking for Hannah that she realizes that Hannah is bipolar.
Learning Seventeen is more than a simple coming-of-age story. Carter does not back down from the difficult topics. This novel is about main character Jane who is rebelliously trying to find meaning in her life and, at the same time, get along with her family. She knows that she does not fit her stepmother's idea of what she should be and is not entirely convinced that she will. This novel is also about love, a parent's unconditional love for a child and a young person’s love for another. Learning Seventeen also explores same sex relationships. Finally it looks into mental health.
A very deep read.
Christina Pike is the Principal of Macdonald Drive Jr High in St. John’s, NL.
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