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



James McCann.
Vancouver, BC: Simply Read Books, 2005.
237 pp., pbk., $14.95.
ISBN 1-894965-31-0.

Subject Heading:
High interest-low vocabulary books.

Grades 8-10 / Ages 13-15.

Review by Ann Ketcheson.

** /4


A thousand years later and still that memory haunted him. He wished he knew the names of the men he had killed that day, if only to write songs to remember them. If only so that he could forget what had come next.

Rellik suddenly knew he was not alone. He perked his head, looking to the sky the same way as an animal that has sensed the smell of another beast. Pressing his fingers against his temples he closed his eyes, and turned to face Alix's direction.

Alix wondered if Rellik knew she was there, but the only action he took was to speak a few more words and leave.

She was safe.


The time - the present. The place - Fillmore High and the surrounding town. The cast of characters - Alix, Betty, Kharl, Simon - plus their families, friends and enemies. It all points to a typical teen fiction novel.

     And that's where the resemblance ends. The school has an area named Dead Man's Alcove, the perfect secluded place to settle disagreements among students. The town map at the beginning of the novel indicates both the cemetery and Devil's Highway. Two unusual new students arrive just as school begins: Shay and Rellik (what does that spell backwards!?)

     Within the first pages, this 'typical' teen novel throws the reader into the shadowy world of werewolves and vampires. Rancour's aim throughout millennia has been to rid the world of vampires, only to be thwarted by Shay at every opportunity. They have been enemies through time, but now both are being watched by another creature who is living his life moving backwards through time.

     McCann has woven elements of mystery, suspense, fantasy and horror in this teen fiction. Just to add to the mix of shapeshifters, werewolves and vampires, he also has included teens who have not just the usual concerns of football, love, parties and the senior prom, but who are also involved in racial (native vs non-native) tensions in their community. Presumably, this is intended to mirror the larger struggle of universal good vs evil in which Shay and Rellick are involved. Other characters in the book range from the school nerd who tries to help everyone cope with everything and the popular girl whose only goal is to be on the arm of a good-looking boy to Alix's father, a drunk whose business is in ruins and whom the entire town shuns.

     The text switches frequently from its present-day story to the same characters several millennia earlier in their other lives. Thankfully, italics help the reader distinguish the different eras.

     No doubt, this novel would provide some laughs and some frights for teen readers, despite the many tangled and often confusing plot lines and myriad of bizarre characters. For those who enjoy such intricacies, it could be an enjoyable read.


Ann Ketcheson is a former teacher-librarian and teacher of high school English and French. She lives in Ottawa, ON.

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

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ISSN 1201-9364
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