CM . . . . Volume XXIV Number 26. . . . March 9, 2018
Ethan suffers from debilitating anxiety and sometimes relies on downers that he gets from “some guy”. One day, while he hides behind a dumpster at school, he is befriended by Gabe, a girl at his school who also faces significant social challenges as someone who is wrestling with her gender identity. The two grow close, and Ethan learns how to stand up for himself under her tutelage. Despite his growing confidence, however, he faces a number of challenges at home, and his relationship with Gabe is not always easy.
Part of the “Orca Soundings” series, this high-interest novel digs into contemporary themes, including gender identity, anxiety, substance abuse, and school bullying and harassment. The very nature of the book, designed to appeal to older children and young adults who may prefer shorter, more language-accessible material, limits the scope of character development and depth-of-plot. Written as a “slice-of-life” story, Identify does not hold back in exploring difficult but relatable topics. This work may suit the interests of very specific types of readers, particularly those who enjoy realistic fiction and seek a linear plot in a short novel. Others may find the story too constrained by this format, longing for further character development and a more evolving plot. Generally, the dialogue of characters is realistic, but the absence of slang hints at some contrived conversations. While Identify has merit for specific kinds of reluctant readers, it is not an essential choice for many collections.
Recommended with Reservations.
Christina Neigel is an Associate Professor of Library and Information Technology at the University of the Fraser Valley in Abbotsford, BC. She is currently completing a dissertation that examines stereotypes in contemporary works, including children’s literature.