CM . . . . Volume XVI Number 17. . . .January 8, 2010.
His Sweet Favour.
Saskatoon, SK: Thistledown Press, 2009.
217 pp., pbk., $16.95.
Grades 10-12 / Ages 15-17.
Review by Ann Ketcheson.
Now there’s this problem, when you go and have sex with a guy, and it’s good, and you want to do it again, and you do, and it becomes like, the regular way things go at the end of the evening, or at lunchtime, or whatever. It makes this tunnel in your life, this sweet hot tunnel where you want to be all the time. All the other places you used to want to be get bloody boring when you’re thinking about getting away from other people and yanking each other’s clothes off.
Sex changes everything. People say it’s the natural progression and all that, go out a couple times and maybe fall in love and then do the bouncing blanket thing and a relationship just takes its natural course and gets better and better. Who thought up that freaking fairy tale?
Like the sex act itself. Isn’t it something I carry around in me everywhere I go for the rest of my life? I stand at the counter at McDonald’s and while the guy is taking my order I’m thinking: an hour ago the hands that are handing you money were running up and down somebody else’s naked body. I sit in English class and look at Mr. Stusiak and almost will him to know that about me, and I remember his voice all muffled in some part of Piper Teague the way it was right before Leith and I first....Jesus.
Sex isn't just this thing that happens between my legs, or even just in my body. It happens to me. Nothing can be the same, ever. I try to tell Leith this a few times but he doesn't seem to get it. For him the sex is just an expression of his overpowering love. He can't separate it in his mind and think about what it means for this huge thing to happen to us.
I told him I'd try to love him. I'm still deciding, but good sex makes it damn hard to figure out whether I actually do. All I know is that I love having sex with him. Knowing this is not helpful. Remember what I said about sex filling up the universe? That is definitely the bad part. I'm lost in this universe full of Leith. What am I going to do?"
The Favour of the title is Favour Wyatt, a grade 12 student at Mooney Secondary in Vancouver who is just beginning her final year of high school. Along with her friends, Maryruth, Leith, Brady and Rick, she is an avid drama student, and the group looks forward to rehearsing what will be their final high school production. One day they hope to actually have their own theatre company. Life gets complicated when Favour and Leith become involved in a relationship, causing tension in the group of friends and a flood of uncertainties in Favour, herself.
Although the drama thread is important to the plot, particularly to begin the novel, it becomes lost as the book focuses almost entirely on the relationships among the friends and, in particular, on the romance of Favour and Leith. The characters seem rather unrealistic and are inconsistent from one encounter to the next. Perhaps this is Tucker’s way of suggesting that the feelings of teens are so strong that their emotions tug them in many ways and lead them to what may often seem unusual or at least uncharacteristic actions.
The supporting characters are a cohesive group and seem to have the ability to read one another’s minds and even, at times, to sense what the others are feeling, even if they are not together. Thus, there is a paranormal flavour to the book. Teens see lights and hear messages. For example, “They all turned and looked at me. They had faces, kind of. Not like people have faces but parts of the light that were like faces. Then they talked to me. Not with mouths but thinking their thoughts straight into my head.”
Like its cast of characters, the novel tends to the dramatic or even melodramatic. One’s first love is an important step in the maturing process, and, throughout the book, Favour seems unsure whether she truly loves Leith. There seems to be no problem for her in having a sexual relationship with him, but she vacillates between this making her euphoric versus causing her to feel used and something of a captive.
Adults in the novel have stereotyped roles, and most parents come across as ‘losers.’ Piper, the drama teacher, is more like student than staff, and her opinion of the principal, “It was quite a challenge getting the old bastard to see things my way,” mentioned in conversation with Favour, echoes that of the teens she teaches.
This young adult novel has several explicit sex scenes and thus requires maturity on the part of the reader. As well, it is sprinkled with language which may be realistic but is unsettling to read page after page and which may upset some readers. Teachers and teacher-librarians should read at least parts of the book before making it available to their general student population. Caveat lector.
Ann Ketcheson, a retired teacher-librarian and teacher of high school English and French, lives in Ottawa, ON.
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