CM . . .
. Volume XXIV Number 7. . . .October 20, 2017
Saving Grad. (SideStreets).
Toronto, ON: James Lorimer, 2017.
183 pp., trade pbk. & EPUB, $12.95 (pbk.).
ISBN 978-1-4594-1252-1 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-4594-1253-8 (EPUB).
Grades 7-10 / Ages 13-17.
Review by Lacey Crowie.
I burst through the door and fling my coat into the room.
Just then, he appears in the kitchen door. A scowl twists his face. Without a word, he grabs my arm and swings me towards him. His hot, boozy breath blows into my face. His grey eyes narrow and squint hard into mine. Every muscle in my body seizes up. There is white powder on his upper lip and a thin line of blood trickling from his nose. Duncan has been into more than just his single-malt Scotch tonight.
“Do you know what time it is?” My stepfather spits the words out at me. Actual spit pelts me in the face. “Did you forget about your curfew?”
His fingers are laced around my arm in a tight pinch-hold. Before I see the blow coming, Duncan smacks me in the side of my head with his other arm. My body just reacts and a scream pierces the air. My scream.
“I’ll teach you to defy me!” he snarls.
He hits me again and I stumble to my knees. His kicks and punches start – pain firing through my body with every blow. A kick to my thigh. A backhand to the other side of my head. A push that sends me crashing into the side table. The heavy glass vase tumbles off, hitting my shoulder before it lands on the floor and shatters.
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry.” I’m sobbing the words over and over, trying to make Duncan stop. But he won't stop.
I push myself across the floor and skid on the broken vase. I gag when I realize the wetness dripping from my arm and chin is blood.
I’m cowering against the wall. Through my sobs, I barely hear footsteps across the hardwood floor.
“Duncan! Leave her alone! Arrête-toi!” Mom shoves her way between us, telling him to stop. But it’s far from over.
Vienna has lived with her abusive stepfather, Duncan, for too long. After yet another physical beating of both her and her mom, Vienna jumps at the opportunity to run away and start a new life with her mom, somewhere where Duncan can’t find them.
Starting life in a new city, slowly Vienna and her mom work to put the pieces of their former selves back together. When Vienna enrolled in a new high school, she didn’t expect to make friends, let alone join the grad planning committee, but on grad night, Vienna, along with her new friends, work to make sure they have the best grad party ever. That is until Duncan shows up at the party putting not only Vienna but also her friends in danger.
Saving Grad is a quick read, with a very fast paced plot. The entire book covers many months, and this time span, in turn, makes for a story that only scratches the surface rather than going into any depth. Given the subject matter – physical and emotional abuse at the hands of an alcoholic and drug-addicted stepparent – perhaps this is best for the intended age group.
That Vienna is part Métis and part French allows for some cultural threads throughout the story. The French language is used in many conversations between Vienna and her grandmother, a feature which readers may find interesting.
As the story is very short, character development is present in only Vienna and, to a smaller extent, her mother. Vienna begins her new life as a quiet, reclusive girl, afraid of being found, before allowing herself to have friends and partake in things that bring her happiness. As a main character, Vienna is a leader, both strong and determined, It is she that pulls her mother along into a new and better life, and it is she who sets up their new life, constantly reminding her mom that she has to be brave. In this sense, Vienna is a solid role model for younger readers.
For older, more experienced readers, the quick progression of this novel may be unbelievable; however, for reluctant or less experienced readers it may not be. This progression, in combination with the short chapters and large type font, makes Saving Grad an easy read.
Lacey Crowie works at Kwantlen Polytechnic University and is currently working on her Masters of Children's Literature at the University of British Columbia.
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University of Manitoba
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