CM . . . .
Volume VII Number 14 . . . . March 16, 2001
"So is this like punishment, you having to be my guide dog?"Eric Walters, a prolific young adult novelist, has again created a compelling story for middle school students who may initially be drawn to this book by the enigmatic cover of two boys playing basketball in a gym. The wheelchair bound boy holds the basketball while the other boy looks on, his ankles and arms crossed in speculation. Neither boy's head can be seen. What are they thinking?
Sean is determined to turn his life around as he starts grade 8 at Homelands Senior Public School, a mob scene of 900 grade 7 and 8 students. He convinces a skeptical, crusty vice-principal that he will stay out of trouble and will make the basketball team. However, confronted and punched out by a new student, David, who is in a wheelchair, Sean finds himself committed to being David's host for the year as a consequence. Rebound is the story of their developing friendship and how each boy challenges the other to rebound in the face of adversity.
And here we have the usual grade 8 adversities: finding a girlfriend, asking a girl to a dance and attending the dance, going to the roller rink with a group of friends, making the basketball team, getting to class on time and pleasing teachers enough to pass the courses, shopping at the mall. At first, David appears to Sean to be strong, confident and brave as together they struggle through grade 8, but Sean comes to see that David holds unrealistic hopes about a cure and can be confrontational and reckless, endangering his life in an unspoken bid at suicide. Sean learns to keep his hot temper under control and to use his energy to make the basketball team in spite of how unsure he is about girls and splitting up from his last year's troublesome buddies. By the novel's end, they both realize that in life you have to rebound from troubles and do the best you can with the situation at hand.
The secondary characters, particularly Sean's and David's parents, are also clearly drawn. Seen from the point of view of the boys, David sees pity in his parents' eyes, and Sean can't wait to get out of the piano practice that he knows his mother has organized for him. The vice-principal is almost a caricature but is saved by his very witty remarks and Sean's humourous reaction to their battles.
The research necessary to the writing of Rebound was done with the help of Ryan Leworthy, the co-founder of LINKS, an organization dedicated to create awareness of people with disabilities and how to arrange for them to get involved in sports, fitness and recreation. Walters has clearly immersed himself in the world of the wheelchair bound, having wheeled around town as David and Sean do and having met the same prejudiced reactions from people that he builds into the novel. He pulls no punches, though, as the reader clearly sees that much of David's agony is brought upon himself because of his own attitude.
It's surprising that Sean never speculates on David's bodily functions (nor does David ever mention it), as this topic is never far from any grade 8 boy's mind. Another small quibble is that the generic school and city in which this novel is set could be any North American setting. Why not place this strong friendship story in a clearly Canadian setting? Or would that not sell in the U.S.A.? You may wish to know, too, that despite the anger often displayed in this novel, profanity never rears its head.
We are sometimes told that it's difficult to find a good story for boys. Here's one that will appeal to many grade 5 to 8 boys (and girls!).
Joan Marshall is a teacher-librarian in Winnipeg, MB.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.