________________ CM . . . . Volume XI Number 11 . . . .February 4, 2005


Blue Highway.

Diane Tullson.
Markham, ON: Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 2004.
192 pp., pbk., $12.95.
ISBN 1-55005-124-5.

Subject Headings:
Teenagers-Alcohol use-Fiction.
Alcohol drinking-Fiction.
Friendship-Juvenile fiction.

Grades 8-11 / Ages 13-16.

Review by Michelle Warry.

* /4



It occurs to me that the phone is ringing. I grab it. It takes me two tries to spit out the name of the shop, and if they'd like to try our current special. They don't, and I have to rummage to find a pencil.

"I'm sorry, could you repeat that?"

Gales of laughter from Vale and Skye.

"A large mushroom, green pepper, olive and feta?" I say, struggling to write it all down. "No mushrooms? You don't like mushrooms? Did you say large or medium?"

Ryan takes the phone from me. "Franzl's Pizza. Can I take your order please?" He tosses me a withering look.

I go back to the work counter and slop sauce onto a shell. They I use my finger to draw eyes, nose, and a mouth. I try to sign my name, but I run out of room.

The excerpt above is designed to give you an accurate representation of what it feels like to read Blue Highway by Diane Tullson. Reading this young adult novel for 13 to 16-year-olds is, well, boring.

     Until Chapter Twenty-Eight, page 141. From that point to the end of the book, page 192, the story moves along quite smartly.

     Before that, Tullson manages to capture what it is to be a teenager: the angst about friends and crushes, the meandering through long days without significant responsibility, the petty dishonesties to parents, the preoccupation with sports, the numbing boredom of a minimum wage job. Unfortunately, none of this makes for a particularly compelling read.

     Tullson has commendable ambitions. At the heart of Blue Highway is the story of Truth, a budding adolescent alcoholic, and her struggles. The complicated, nuanced relationship between Truth and her best friend, Skye, has the potential to be engaging, but fails. The problems in their relationship are revealed too late in the narrative to grip, with the result that their friendship seems merely odd, unbalanced.

     Most admirable of all is Tullson's earnest attempt to show the tragic results of teen drinking and driving. Sadly, though, this section of the narrative jumps out like a neon AA tract; it is less than subtle and makes the rest of the story seem like a flimsy excuse to explore the dangers of teen alcohol abuse.

Not Recommended.

Michelle Warry is a graduate student in UBC's Master of Arts in Children's Literature program.

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

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