________________ CM . . . . Volume IX Number 17 . . . . April 25, 2003


The Trouble With Liberty. (Orca Soundings).

Kristin Butcher.
Victoria, BC: Orca, 2003.
88 pp., pbk., $9.95.
ISBN 1-55143-274-9.

Grades 9-12 / Ages 14-17.

Review by Joanne Peters.

**** /4


It's rodeo time in Sutter's Crossing, a not-bustling metropolis of 2,633, ("not including the baby Mrs. Hooper is expecting next month"), and Val McQueen's brother Cody is a contestant in the calf-roping event. Hoping to catch a better view of the competition, she climbs onto the rail of the fence...

And proceeded to fall into the corral - well, almost. If the man standing next to me hadn't grabbed my arm, I would have done a header for sure.

Embarrassed, I thanked him and went to step down. But there was nowhere to step down to! My little patch of ground had disappeared. It hadn't really gone anywhere, but there was someone else standing on it. From the way that someone wasn't making the slightest attempt to give me any room, I wondered if I'd had help losing my balance.

My glare was wasted on the top of the girl's head. But her appearance wasn't wasted on me. She looked like she'd walked straight out of a fashion magazine - long blonde hair, tanned skin and white designer jeans.

Meet Liberty Hayes, and no, she doesn't give anyone any ground, whether at a rodeo, at school, or anywhere else. Liberty has just moved to Sutter's Crossing, and happily takes up Val's invitation to introduce her to other kids (including Val's cute brother, Cody) in her Grade Ten class during the last week before school. Good looks, family wealth, and incredible personal magnetism - Liberty seems to have it all, and in no time, she's gone from nervous newcomer to the girl who is "in the middle of it all." Of course, in no time, Liberty has a boyfriend, too: Cody McQueen. The only person who doesn't want to be part of Liberty's charmed circle is Val's friend, Ryan. Ryan's coolness to Liberty bothers Val, especially because he won't open up to just why he feels the way he does.

     Liberty is not an academic star; showing off hot new clothes, trolling for parties, and checking out hot guys are school's main attractions. The only subject that really interests her is band, taught by Mr. Henderson, "a total hunk." Used to getting what she wants from every man she meets, from her father to the entire male population of Clarence Cobb Regional Secondary, it doesn't take long for Liberty to act on her attraction to Mr. Henderson. She becomes every teacher's nightmare: the student who lodges a false accusation of sexual misconduct. As the story unfolds, it is Ryan who knows the truth behind Liberty's false accusation of rape and Val who confronts Liberty with it.

     The Trouble with Liberty is from the Orca Soundings series - the books are short, and the characters are realistic, facing problems and situations that are current and credible. Everyone who has gone to high school has met a manipulator like Liberty, and everyone who has met a "Liberty" has been used and abused by her charm and self-centeredness. This book was an absolute page-turner, and although written for someone with a reading level of grade 5 or so, kept me completely engaged! For a young reader who is a non-reader, this is an excellent choice and should be purchased for libraries with readers from grades 9 through 12. There's just not enough really good Canadian fiction for students reading below grade level, and this one is excellent for reluctant readers, as well. It could also be used in a classroom setting, perhaps as part of a multi-novel unit.

     Read The Trouble with Liberty. You'll like it, your students will like it, and you'll have something by a Canadian author to recommend to those kids who don't want to read, have a hard time reading, but need to read books like this because completing it will show them that they can read.

Highly Recommended.

Joanne Peters is a teacher-librarian at Kelvin High School in Winnipeg, MB.

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

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