________________ CM . . . . Volume XII Number 5 . . . . October 28, 2005

cover

Every Move. (SideStreets).

Peter McPhee.
Toronto, ON: James Lorimer, 2004.
184 pp., pbk. & cl., $6.95 (pbk.), $14.95(cl.).
ISBN 1-55028-850-4 (pbk.), ISBN 1-55028-851-2 (cl.).

Subject Headings:
Harassment-Juvenile fiction.
Stalking - Juvenile fiction.
Fear - Juvenile fiction.

Grades 8-11 / Ages 13-16.

Review by Joan Marshall.

** /4

excerpt:

"Michael, look," she said, raising her voice. "I don't want anything else from you. Understand?"

Emily hated being this harsh to anyone but he just didn't seem to get normal signals from people.  Michael shoved his hands deep in the pockets of his army surplus jacket and stepped back.

"I thought we were past all this, Ems. I know you still don't trust guys because of Justin."

Emily felt the colour drain from her face, felt a sudden rage. She tried hard to fight it. When she spoke, she could hear the anger in her voice.

"What do you know about that?"

"Come on.  It's me you're talking to."

“How do you know about that?" she repeated. She was no longer aware of the chill in the air.

Michael shrugged. "I knew about it before we met. A lot of people heard. You know how it is in school.

"Morgan stepped forward until her face was only inches from Michael's.

"Shut your damn mouth! You understand me, creep? Just shut up and turn around and walk away before I break your neck!

"Michael didn't look at her. He stared off at some distant point over Emily's shoulder. After a second or two, he turned around and walked stiffly down the avenue. Morgan grabbed Emily, pulled open the café door and practically shoved her through. Inside, she slammed the door shut and locked it. She looked through the windows and saw that Michael was gone before turning back to Emily. Ethan had walked over to them, obviously wondering what had happened.

"If that creep had come back in, I'd have killed him!"

"Michael?" Ethan asked. "He was outside?"

"He was waiting for Emily."

For once, Ethan didn't try to make a joke. It was obvious that Michael had upset both girls terribly. Emily was still thinking about what he had said outside about Justin: "A lot of people heard. You know how it is in school." It had been almost two years, but the memory still hurt. She knew it was only her imagination, but sometimes she still felt the bruises Justin had left on her body.

 

Peter McPhee wades into the murky waters of stalking in this short, accessible novel directed at older teenage girls who are trying to cope with the teen dating scene. Sixteen-year-old Emily and her best friend, Morgan, both work for the gay Ethan as waitresses at the Cyber Taste Café on Calgary's Ninth Avenue as an after school job. Carefree, outgoing Morgan gently teases Emily over a new boy, Daniel, but both of them are repulsed and yet intrigued by geeky Michael who pursues Emily in a scary, persistent manner. Michael sends Emily gifts, gushing email and cards which she uneasily keeps in a shoebox. In typical high-school-girl fashion, neither girl thinks of telling a parent about Michael's behaviour, but, because Michael fixes the computers at the café, they share their misgivings with Ethan, who does keep an eye out for their safety. In revenge for Emily's having dated Daniel, Michael viciously insults Emily on the café's website, and the parents and police are finally contacted. Emily's trusting parents eventually regret that they never lock their doors when a remote-controlled camera is found in Emily's bedroom. In a frightening climax, Michael escapes the authorities, firebombs the café and is badly burned along with Daniel. Emily takes a student exchange to Europe, and Michael becomes a permanent resident in a locked psychiatric ward. The novel ends with a creepy couple of pages in Michael's voice telling how he is already reading Emily's email from Europe to her parents. 

     This short, compelling novel will be very attractive to girls who are uneasy about the dating scene.  Emily's bad grade 9 experience with Justin, who hit her when she wouldn't have sex with him, and Emily's hesitant approach to Daniel's advances will feed right into girls' insecurity.

     Emily, Morgan and Daniel are well-drawn, typical older teens trying to take control of their own lives. Emily's laid back music teacher parents are adored by all the young people, including Emily, and they do come through in the emergency climax at the end. The gay Ethan and his partner Joel are not stereotypical, only compassionate older men who help the younger people. Michael's delusional behaviour is named as erotomania, and the difficulties that police and foster parents have with mentally ill people are made very clear. The police are shown to be gentle, but thorough and competent.

     Although McPhee makes an effort to set this novel in Calgary, its action could be happening in any large Canadian city, and so it will appeal across the country  and even in the U.S.

     McPhee nicely balances the up-to-date banter between teens with the hair-raising horror of an innocent girl's unawareness of her stalker. The mood is full of dramatic irony, with the reader gradually realizing that the trusting nature of Emily and her parents is going to result in tragedy.

     It's unfortunate that the issue of Emily's finding the carefully arranged shoebox full of pornographic pictures and innocent wedding shoes on a satin pillow is not resolved. The reader doesn't know if Emily ever does show this creepy talisman to her parents or to the police. The other niggling question is why Emily's mother never addressed the issue of Justin's abuse. Media-savvy teens will think it odd that cell phones and text messaging are not an integral part of Emily's world and Michael's assault. This book will raise the issue of stalking, making it an acceptable topic of conversation. Readers will recognize their own danger and their own strengths.

Recommended.

Joan Marshall of Winnipeg, MB, is a recently retired high school teacher-librarian.

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

Copyright 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
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.
 

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