CM . . . .
Volume V Number 15 . . . . March 26, 1999
"You're a disgrace. A no-good. I should have know you'd amount to nothing. It's probably in your genes, your blood." An arm came up -- ready to strike.It has been over a year since 14-year-old Tanner Bolton began experiencing the same dream. Now it is returning more frequently, leaving Tanner with an intense headache when he wakes up. Tanner struggles to understand how the dream is connected to his life, given the unexplained anger that accompanies the dream, and the fact that he doesn't even know how to swim. Eventually Tanner begins to suspect that he is actually experiencing someone else's dream, and senses that the key to the mystery is somehow connected with the ocean, miles away from his home in Edmonton. His hockey team's road trip to Vancouver provides Tanner with the opportunity to seek some answers.
What Tanner doesn't know is that, at the same time, Alex Swanson, 14, is running away from an abusive father in the small town of Tahsis on Vancouver Island. He is determined to make a better life for himself in Vancouver but soon discovers that he feels as trapped by the city as he did living under his father's roof. Quickly running out of money, Alex falls into the hands of Hap, a drug dealer who compels Alex to work for him. What follows is a dramatic escape, then kidnapping and rescue, which eventually brings Alex and Tanner face to face, revealing the truth behind their connection.
The structure of Hrdlitschka's second novel is effective, alternating between two plots and two protagonists and weaving them closer together, both physically and psychically, as the story moves towards its climax. While the characters are, for the most part, believable, the dialogue is occasionally stiff and unnatural, particularly at the conclusion.
Despite the excitement and suspense, the novel leaves the reader with a number of questions. Why doesn't Alex share the same telepathic abilities as his brother, until closer to the end of the story? Alex does not reveal whether he experiences the same feelings of being 'disconnected' that Tanner does. Also, given the controversial nature of psychokinesis (moving objects with the mind) and the rarity of documented cases, why isn't Tanner more excited about sharing his incredible ability with the people around him, particularly adults? Since the psychokinesis in this story is triggered by anger, why doesn't Alex experience PK when he engages in conflict with his father and with Hap?
The author adds a closing note: "It has been observed that teens, who are often greatly affected by their feelings, can become so troubled by a problem that their emotions build up into a kind of vibration. This vibration has been known to leave their bodies and move whatever it strikes." Citing the source of this information would add credibility to the characters and story, as well as provide readers a source for further exploration of this topic.
Despite its shortcomings, Disconnected is an interesting story that will appeal particularly to boys ages 11-14.
Recommended with reservations.
Tom Knutson, a Youth Services Librarian with Okanagan Regional Library in Vernon, BC, chairs the 1999-2000 Red Cedar Book Award Selection Committee.
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