________________ CM . . . . Volume IX Number 11 . . . . January 31, 2003


Getting a Life.

Jocelyn Shipley.
Toronto, ON: Sumach Press, 2002.
223 pp., pbk., $9.95.
ISBN 1-894549-18-X.

Grades 9-12 /Ages 14-17.

Review by Jennifer L. Branch.

**** /4


I don't really know what to do about the party. I don't want to see Zach. But I feel I should go for Ms. Francella's sake. She's always been so nice to me.

In the end though I decided to go for a different reason. When I get to Dawn's, Skye says right away,“Carly, I am hungry.” No wonder. There isn't anything to eat in the fridge or in the cupboards. Not even a slice of bread.

“Did you guys have lunch?”

Skye points to an empty cereal box on the counter.

“You mean you didn't go to school again?”

“Dawn took us, but we forgot our lunchboxes so we came home,” Amber says. “To get something to eat. But we only had cereal.”

“Can we go to the store?” Skye asks.

Sometimes Rhonda leaves money for groceries, but the sugar bowl is empty today. I'm so mad I don't know what to say or do.

“Can you get something from your house?” Amber asks. I've done this lots of times, sneaking over stuff like bread and cheese and fruit. Muriel knows, I'm sure. How could she not have noticed? But I figure it's okay because she hasn't said anything. Still, I am already babysitting for free. It's not up to me to feed the girls too.

“I want pizza,” Sky says. “Yummy, yummy pizza. In a big box.”

Why didn't I think of that sooner? “Hey, I know what,” I tell them. “How about we go to a pizza party?” The girls can eat at the party, I can thank Ms. Francella, and then we'll leave.

Carly is in over her head. She has befriended a troubled family that lives across the street. She has lied to a social worker who is concerned that the two little girls, Amber and Skye, are being neglected by their mother. She is dating a boy she has always loved but realizes that she doesn't really like him. She is busy with school, working at the public library on Sundays and writing an advice column for the school paper. On top of all this, she is trying to come to grips with a secret in her own family.

     Carly is definitely in over her head.

     This is the story of smart, funny, dedicated and reliable Carly who becomes lost when her best friend moves away. Carly has always defined herself as Tanya's friend, and when Tanya and her family move to Australia for a year, Carly must redefine herself and her life.

     Getting a Life tells the story of a young woman coming into her own. We watch as Carly makes a lot of mistakes along the way, mistakes that come from needing to belong. Carly dates the wrong boy while the right one is right in front of her all the time. She tries to protect the family across the street – even when she knows she shouldn't.

     Yet, Carly manages to get a life. She finds out the secret that her father has kept for so long, and this helps her to begin to understand and then forgive. This empowers Carly to take charge of her own life – even though that, too, can have its consequences.

     The dialogue is fresh and true, and Carly is a character to which many will be able to relate. The novel deals with difficult issues head on which makes the book hard to put down.

Highly Recommended .

Jennifer L. Branch is Coordinator of the Teacher-Librarianship by Distance Learning Program at the Faculty of Education, the University of Alberta.

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

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