________________ CM . . . . Volume XV Number 4 . . . . October 10, 2008


I Know It’s Over.        

C.K. Kelly Martin.
New York, NY: Random House, 2008.
244 pp., $19.99, hardcover, $22.99 (GLB).
ISBN 978-0-375-84566-6, ISBN 978-0-375-94566-3 (GLB).

Grades 8-12 / Ages 13–17.

Review by Ann Ketcheson.                  

**** /4

Reviewed from Advance Reader’s Copy.


“I get back up. This time I’m really going and it feels wrong, everything undecided between us and that weed flapping its leaves inside me like it wants to fly. Sasha stands up next to me. Her cheeks practically match her skirt and I hope her parents won’t ask too many questions about us;  I don’t think she’ll be able to handle that right now. “Are you gonna be okay?”

She opens her mouth but closes it again before saying: “I guess I can act like I am for a while.”

“You can IM me later if you want,” I offer. “Not like I’ll be getting any sleep tonight.”

“Okay, I might. I’m glad you came over anyway.”

“You are?” I say it lightly. I’m not sure this meeting helped either of us any.

“Yeah, I am. Thanks, Nick.” She takes a step towards me and puts her arms around me. The hug catches me off guard. You’d think it would take longer than a month to forget how to hug someone, but my arms feel heavy and stupid at first. Then my hand reaches for her hair. It’s soft like it always was and I hug her back the way I used to.

It feels so good to do that. So good that it’s scary. How many times can one person break your heart?“

Nick’s summer holidays begin as they should. He’s starting to get over his parents’ divorce, and his relationship with girlfriend Dani is heating up. But then he meets Sasha and everything changes. Nick knows her vaguely from school, but now Sasha is definitely keen to know him better. However by October, when they begin having sex, Sasha tells Nick she needs a little space,  needs to be sure of what they’re doing. Nick tries to accept the break up but then is shocked again when Sasha comes to tell him just before Christmas that she’s pregnant.

     C.K. Kelly Martin’s first young adult novel is frank to the point of almost being brutal and yet so sincere that readers are totally immersed in the main characters and suffer the highs and lows of their relationship right along with them. We are swept up in their roller coaster emotions.

     Sixteen-year-old Nick is the narrator, and having the story told from the male point of view is compelling. Nick is a likeable teen who loves to play hockey, party with friends and chase girls.  Two minor characters mirror the sides of Nick that we see. Keelor is his macho, hockey-playing friend. Nathan is another close hockey friend who is gay. Nick’s role is somewhere between the stereotypes – typically male in many ways, and yet surprised by his emotional reactions and uncertain how to deal with them. Nick is mature and sensitive, wanting to support Sasha and yet unsure of his role since she has declared that their relationship is over.

     Sasha is also mature and a likeable character. She and Nick consider various choices when she finds out she is pregnant: the morning-after pill, keeping the baby, abortion. Both teens eventually confide in their parents, and here, too, Martin is realistic. The parents are initially shocked and saddened but also are willing to help however they can and willing to support Nick and Sasha regardless of what decision they make.

     Despite the intense themes of teenage sexuality and pregnancy, Martin never preaches. Her characters discuss many options and many emotions, but one feels the choice is theirs and suited to their circumstances rather than being ‘scripted’ by the author. Some readers will agree with the final decision, others will not. Individual beliefs play a role for readers just as they do for Nick and Sasha.

     The news of Sasha’s pregnancy is revealed in the first few paragraphs of the novel, as Nick’s mother and sister are returning home from Christmas shopping. Martin then takes readers back in time to June, just as summer holidays are starting, in order to help readers understand both Nick and Sasha and their developing relationship. By the end of the book, we are back in the present, and school is beginning in the new year. This structure works well and involves readers at every turn.

     This young adult novel is candid and intense. One feels that Martin both understands and genuinely likes her characters. Her tone is never judgmental. Like Nick and Sasha, Martin takes a difficult situation and illustrates potential methods of dealing with it. She vividly describes the confusion, fright and devastation the teens feel without allowing them too much self-pity or, in Nick’s case, the opportunity to simply bow out when things get tough.

     Wisely, Martin keeps her characters believable throughout, and, therefore, there is no magical ending to the book. The reality of the situation and its repercussions don’t simply evaporate to allow Nick and Sasha to be ‘happy ever after.’ Life and love are too complex to be ‘solved’ on the last few pages.             

     Some critics may find this novel too gritty and detailed for teen readers, but I applaud Martin for her intelligent characters and her sensitive portrayal of their honest reactions and emotions.  Relationships, love and sex are important parts of teens’ lives, and this book deals openly and honestly with them as well as with an unplanned teen pregnancy. This is a worthwhile and perhaps even necessary novel for all teens and might well enlighten their parents and teachers also. I Know It’s Over should be widely available, and I would encourage all teens to take the time to read it.

Highly Recommended.

Ann Ketcheson, a retired teacher-librarian and teacher of high school English and French, lives in Ottawa where she has turned her love of travel into a new career as a travel consultant.

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

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