________________ CM . . . . Volume XXIII Number 4. . . .September 30, 2016

cover

Odd One Out.

Betty Jane Hegerat.
Fernie, BC: Oolichan Books, 2016.
132 pp., trade pbk., $19.95.
ISBN 978-0-88982-305-1.

Grades 7-10 / Ages 12-15.

Review by Karen Boyd.

**˝ /4

   

excerpt:

The four of us stood there, shifting from foot to foot.

“Right,” I said, finally. “So we’ll tell Mom you were here.”

For whatever reason, I think Josie was right about not telling Amelia that Dad might not be back for another two weeks. Amelia took her glasses off, lifted the hem of her sweater and popped them somewhere into the folds of her skirt. Without the glasses, her eyes were still huge. And such a familiar blue.

“Aw!” Becca groaned. “Do you have to go?”

I reached awkwardly around Amelia and put my hand on the doorknob. “So, I guess we’ll see you around?” I slid my other arm between her and Becca and kind of herded Becca toward Josie.

When I opened the door, Amelia didn’t really have any choice but to brave the gust of snow that swept in. She reached around to tuck her braid into he back of the sweater, pulled the thick wool up under her chin, and stepped outside. It was hard to tell whether she slammed the door or a rogue gust of wind did the job. The hallway filled up with the smell of snow.

“Whew.” Josie totally sagged where she was standing. “I didn’t think we’d ever get rid of her.”

 

Rufus (Roof) Peters, 15, is one of four siblings, two sets of twins. While this may be exceptional, it is the only part of Roof’s life that is. He isn’t the eldest, as his minutes older sister is happy to point out. In fact, she outshines him at everything. Roof’s main goals are to escape the French language summer exchange and hopefully figure out these new feelings for his friend Zoe. When a mysterious stranger appears at the door, Roof finds that he does have a gift. He is able to negotiate the family dynamics, support the people he loves, and find his voice.

     Odd One Out is a surprisingly gentle story. Surprising, because it is essentially a story of a young pregnancy that results in the father abandoning the mother and reneging on accepting responsibility and support of the baby. These are difficult topics to touch on in a young adult novel, and it is Hegerat’s writing of Roof that provides the opportunity for gentleness. The mysterious stranger from Mexico turns out to be Roof’s half-sister. She is his father’s daughter with his high school girlfriend. Roof seems to be the only one that can consider everyone’s perspective. His mother and sister are angry, his father is bewildered, and the younger twins are unaware. Roof is responsible, empathetic, and kind. He is a character that is an excellent role model for young boys.

     While Roof is a strong and likable character, at some points of the story it is difficult not to ask, “really?” I’m not sure that the actual family issue would be worked out the way that the book describes. I would think that Roof and his twin sister, Josie, might have some real issues with the way that his parents handled Amelia. When Amelia’s mother died when Amelia was 10, Roof’s parents were asked to take in Amelia. For the second time in her life, Amelia was abandoned by her birth father. It is difficult to reconcile the loving, committed father of the two sets of twins, with the absolute lack of responsibility he takes for Amelia. There are also real trust issues between the parents as the mother was not aware of money that the father and aunt were sneaking to Amelia in birthday cards over the years. The mother is a very difficult character to like. She is clearly angry, but her actions are so selfish and hurtful to a young child that it is very hard to get past it. At one point, Rufus and Josie have a discussion that brings up these uncomfortable topics, but they seem to be easily forgiven and swept under the carpet.

     Reading Odd One Out as Rufus’ story makes it a good read. As a book that deals with complex family issues, mistakes, and regrets, it doesn’t quite get there.

Recommended.

Dr. Karen Boyd is Assistant Superintendent Educational Programming with the River East Transcona School Division in Winnipeg, MB, and a former sessional lecturer in YA literature at the Faculty of Education, the University of Manitoba.

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

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