CM . . .
. Volume XV Number 15 . . . . March 20, 2009
Heather Waldorf's third book, Tripping follows 15-year-old Rainey on a cross-country trip that not only introduces teenage readers to Canada's dangerous, yet beautifully unreserved terrain, but also provides them with a character inherently like them. Rainey embarks on her most adventurous and defining summer full of concerns towards her future, her physical differences, and her lack of a social life. Rainey's embarrassment and worry towards her dependence upon a prosthetic leg outwardly mirrors her internal concerns about her "new-girl" status in Toronto and her insecurities around the disappearance of her mother 15 years ago. On the eve of her departure on a school-sponsored road trip through Canada with five other teenagers, Rainey discovers not only her missing mother's whereabouts but also learns that her mother wants to meet. As Rainey and the other teens travel east to west (Toronto to Vancouver Island), Rainey likewise morphs from a frightened, self-conscious, insecure girl into a self-assured, motivated, and outspoken young woman.
Waldorf creates a unified and appealing novel by blending the outdoor adventure tropes of Canada's literary past with relevant issues and witty humour that speaks directly to modern teenagers. The novel moves at quick pace, jumping from bear attacks to drug abuse to summer romance to the development of unexpected friendships, while constantly maintaining interest and a clear direction. Through the excitement-laden expenditure, Waldorf creates Rainey as an endearing, funny, and observant girl who develops into a perfectly well-rounded character. When she meets her mother at the end of her life-changing trip, Rainey criticizes her mother's abandonment while also maturely accepting her reasons and character faults. Waldorf approaches this scene as if to didactically end the novel, yet avoids the overly moral ending by endowing Rainey with the courage and maturity to make her own decisions. She emerges from meeting her mother, having suffered a massive blow of learning she has a younger brother, to develop not a disdain for her past, but an acceptance and appreciation of her overly-affectionate step-mother.
Tripping engages teen readers by effectively speaking to them while avoiding didactic lessons or moralistic endings. While the trip, itself, may seem extraordinary and beyond belief, Waldorf's novel shines due to her characters and their internal struggles as they approach maturity and begin their own self-exploration.
Megan Lankford is a student at the University of British Columbia earning a Masters of Arts in Children's Literature.
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