________________ CM . . . . Volume XXIV Number 35. . . .May 11, 2018


Payback. (Orca Currents).

Deb Loughead.
Victoria, BC: Orca, 2017.
117 pp., pbk., pdf & epub, $9.95.
ISBN 978-1-4598-1469-1 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-4598-1470-7 (pdf), ISBN 978-1-4598-1471-4 epub).

Grades 7-11 / Ages 12-16.

Review by Cameron Ray.

*** /4



Ever since we’d started our Retro Thursdays board-game night, my friend Cory and I had learned a whole lot more words and brushed up on our spelling too. A while back we’d discovered the hard way that girls aren’t as okay with chilling in front of a screen playing video games all night the way guys are. They actually like to talk. Face-to-face. So our compromise was playing board games one evening a week.

I sneaked a peak at the cell phone on my lap. (One of the rules of board-game night was no phones on the table.) It was already well past my ten PM weeknight curfew. I knew little kids who went to bed later than ten o’clock on weeknights and midnight on weekends.


Payback, an “Orca Currents” title, is a competent and mostly well-told story. The only problem is that the series’ format does not allow for enough character development, and the plotting happens a bit too quickly to be totally believable, especially toward the end of the book when the author is wrapping things up and tying up loose ends.

      Dylan, a teenager in the small town of Bridgwood, spends his days attending school and his evenings doing homework, hanging out with friends and his girlfriend, or working at the local ice cream shop. He has a fairly normal life until one day his being at the wrong place at the wrong time makes him the main suspect of a crime. A chance run-in with an older teen, Jeff Walker, and a classmate, Eliot, in a truck puts Dylan in an awkward position when the police confront him about thefts that have been happening in the town.

      Dylan’s life begins to unravel somewhat as Jeff has Eliot start to stalk him and make his life miserable by slashing his bike tires, turning up at his home and other odd behaviors. Dylan is torn as to what Eliot’s motives are and what Jeff’s ultimate plan for him may be. Once the action begins, readers are really in the thick of the plot, but the events happen too quickly to engage the reader. Readers may be left scratching their heads as some things seem to happen too conveniently. (When Dylan’s grandmother’s wallet goes missing, it is assumed Eliot has stolen it, but then it conveniently turns up, and Eliot is exonerated).

      Because Jeff’s motivation is never discussed or even alluded to, his character falls into the stereotype realm as readers know nothing of him or why he is such a nasty bully. Eliot and the adults are a bit more developed as characters but not enough for them to be full and well-rounded. The other characters in the book are also lacking in character development which makes any vested interest by readers in the book difficult as they are left feeling that the characters are a little cardboard and device-like. Dylan is the most well-thought-out and developed character in the book, and he comes across as a likeable and generally competent and engaging narrator.

      Overall, Payback achieves what it intends to do: it tells an interesting story at a quick pace; however, the pace, itself, leaves a little to be desired in the unfolding of the story.


Cameron Ray is a Youth Services Specialist Librarian with the North York Central Library.

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