CM December 8, 
1995. Vol. II, Number 8

image Of Things Not Seen.

Don Aker.
Toronto: Stoddart, 1995. 197pp, paper, $5.99.
ISBN 0-7736-7435-7. CIP.

Grades 6 - 10 / Ages 11 - 15.
Review by Dave Jenkinson.

In his first young-adult novel, Aker, a Middleton, Nova Scotia, high-school teacher, deals powerfully with the theme of physical abuse. Ben Corbett, sixteen, has lived with being beaten and seeing his mother battered ever since Jim Rankin (six feet, four inches tall) became his stepfather seven years ago. To protect each other, mother and son, have both tried fruitlessly to mollify Rankin by constantly monitoring and modifying their behaviours in accordance with his wishes and demands, but Rankin's rages, often alcohol-fuelled, are unpredictable and always physically violent.

The book's title, rooted in Hebrews 11:1, is part of Ben's mother's belief that "things will get better soon" and they just have to have faith, "the conviction of things not seen," that Rankin will change for the better.

A year and a half earlier, the family's fifth move in five years brought them to Brookdale, a small community in Nova Scotia's Annapolis Valley, where Rankin works in a plastics factory and Ben's mother is a cashier. Though Ben has learned that playing the role of social isolate helps keep the family's secret hidden, in Brookdale he allows two people -- his girlfriend Ann and octogenarian neighbour Sadie Jackson -- to see into his dark world. And a third person, Mark Lewis, Ben's grade-eleven English teacher, unknowingly blunders into that darkness and sets in motion a chain of events that ends the abuse.

Just as Ben is receiving a particularly brutal "tuning up" from Rankin, Ann, Mr. Lewis, and Ben's mother independently conclude that the police must be called, and the book's ending finds Ben and his mother in a shelter for battered families.

Aker is particularly strong at characterization, and he renders the dynamics which allow abuse to continue within a family with great credidbility. Lest readers leave the book stereotyping abusers as just being blue-collar drunks or step-parents, Aker includes another abuse scenario that involves an upper-middle-class father and son.

Highly recommended.

Dave Jenkinson teaches courses in children's and young-adult literature in the Faculty of Education, University of Manitoba.

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Copyright © 1995 the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.

Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364

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