CM . . .
. Volume XXIV Number 23. . . .February 16, 2018
Kryptonite. (Orca Soundings).
Victoria, BC: Orca, 2018.
128 pp., pbk., pdf & epub., $9.95 (hc.).
ISBN 978-1-4598-1656-5 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-4598-1657-2 (pdf), ISBN 978-1-4598-1658-9 (epub).
Grades 9 and up / Ages 14 and up.
Review by Jonine Bergen.
Reviewed from Advance Reading Copy.
There had been a number of labels put on me over the years. Spoiled. Selfish. Self-centered. Egotistical. Conceited. Cheater (of course). But up until that day with the shoes, I’d never been caught stealing. So thief was not on the list. I didn’t really care that much about what other people thought about me as long as I got my way. Which I usually did.
Jackson is proud of his ability to get what he wants. He is smart, smooth, and very good at being what people want if it means he can get what he wants in return. He simply doesn’t think that other people should stop him from getting what he wants – and he is very good at getting what he wants. Whether it is a classmate’s lunch, getting someone to write his essays, or a new pair of shoes; if he wants it, he’ll get it even if it means stealing.
Kryptonite is a good addition to the high-interest “Orca Soundings” series. Told in first person narrative, it starts quickly with a moral dilemma and remains fast paced. Jackson had a bad day at school when his philosophy teacher caught him plagiarizing an essay – again. To make himself feel better, Jackson decides it is time to get a new pair of $200 shoes. So, he does what has worked for him in the past. He heads to the store, puts them on, and runs. This time, however, he is chased down by one of the store employees, someone named Abby, who gives him an ultimatum – return the shoes or visit the police station. This simple act draws Jackson’s attention, and he quickly decides he wants Abby too. Unfortunately, Abby is still obsessed with her ex – the guy who was responsible for her recent stint in juvie. Undeterred, Jackson agrees to find Abby’s boyfriend, Bryce, as a way of starting a relationship with Abby.
So, Jackson arranges an accidental meeting with Bryce and quickly convinces him that he is just the person needed to help with Bryce’s business of dealing a new drug, called Kryptonite. Jackson makes it very clear to the reader that the only reason he decides to get involved with Bryce is Abby. As a result, a second moral dilemma is presented: should Jackson tell the police about Bryce’s business, or should he stay silent about what he knows?
On the surface, Jackson is an unusual antihero because Choyce has written him without any hidden noble characteristics. If anything, Jackson is amoral. According to Jackson, he does not cheat at school because he has difficulty doing the work; he does it because he can. He has a comfortable lifestyle, but he steals because he wants the thing he is stealing. He decides to help Abby because he wants her to choose him over Bryce. There is a suggestion, however, that Jackson may be an unreliable narrator and that there may be more to him than solely self-interest. Interestingly, his self-interest insulates him, and protects Abby, from the dangers of getting personally involved with drugs. As with most “Orca Soundings” title, the novel ends quickly and on a positive note. It is suggested that Jackson may change because “doors were opening in my mind.”
Kryptonite follows the recipe that has made “Orca Soundings” a success: first person narrative, gritty content, good action, and teen-relatable characters. The book fell flat for me, however, because the potential positive ending was not supported by the development of the plot. Jackson was given too much time to explain himself and not enough time acting. Teachers will appreciate the subplot concerning plagiarism.
Jonine Bergen is a school librarian in Winnipeg, MB.
© CM Association
University of Manitoba
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