________________ CM . . . . Volume XXIV Number 4. . . September 29, 2017


Getting the Brush Off. (Orca Limelights).

Mere Joyce.
Victoria, BC: Orca, November, 2017.
112 pp., pbk., pdf & epub, $9.95 (pbk.)
ISBN 978-1-4598-1358-8 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-4598-1359-5 (pdf), ISBN 978-1-4598-1360-1 (epub).

Grades 5-9 / Ages 10-14.

Review by Allison Giggey.

***˝ /4

Reviewed from Advance Reading Copy.


I stand in a ballet fourth position as I wait for the three beats of silence to tick by before the rapid drumbeat of Wayward Tides, my favourite Maritime punk band, pounds through the salty air of the Halifax Harbour. I drop my arms and spin around in time with the beat, grabbing a brush while I’m still mid-motion.

The people behind me notice the mass of snow-cone-blue hair piled in a messy bun on the top of my head. They notice the small gauges in my ears and the silver ring in the right corner of my bottom lip. They even notice the ripped skinny jeans and the paint-covered Blondie t-shirt.

But they don’t notice how my paintbrush dives into my palette, or how the paint flies through the air as I swoop back to face my easel. They don’t notice how the brush slams onto the canvas, making dot after dot of colour before I twist the whole canvas sideways and grab a different brush to work with a different shade of paint.


Sydney Hart’s whole life has changed since leaving Burke Academy. She used to spend all her free time dancing; now she finds herself spending her time busking in order to raise the money to attend art camp. When an onlooker notices Sydney’s performances and presents her with an opportunity to win her way back into Burke, Sydney is faced with a decision: go the safe route that is most likely to help her get back in, or be the performance artist she wants to be?

     Mere Joyce’s Getting the Brush Off is an excellent new addition to the “Orca Limelights” series, one that I added to the fiction order for my intermediate school library before I even hit the halfway point. It’s a combination of light-hearted and emotional, with moments of both drama and humour sprinkled evenly throughout the story. The opening pages were probably the best in the book, grabbing my attention from the beginning. I also appreciated the timelessness of the piece; while there were a few mentions of cell phones and other technologies throughout, overall it’s a book that will still make sense to readers twenty years from now.

     The character development in this novel is very well-balanced. Joyce gives us all we need to know about Sydney Hart and the people in her life without overwhelming the story. In a novel that hovers around 110 pages, this is important. We need to know our characters but not at the risk of overtaking the plot. Joyce really finds the balance here. Sydney’s friends – the colourful, quirky Lush and the kind-hearted, supportive Jorge – are given just enough depth to make them interesting but not so much that we lose Sydney’s story (that said, I would absolutely read a book with Lush and Jorge as the main characters. There is definitely a story to be told there!). The vicious Miranda Wakefield is given enough page time to fuel the feud but not enough to make the story more about the girls’ fight than about Sydney’s personal victory.

     At its core, that’s what this book really is. Getting the Brush Off is a story about a girl overcoming self-doubt in order to get where she wants to be while still staying true to who she wants to be. When I grab an Orca title, I expect a few things: fast pace, interesting storyline, clear writing, good message, and an overall quick read. Getting the Brush Off delivers on all these, and I look forward to adding it to my school library’s collection.

Highly Recommended.

Allison Giggey is a teacher-librarian at an intermediate school in Prince Edward Island.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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