________________ CM . . . . Volume XII Number 7 . . . .November 25, 2005


Yellow Line. (Orca Soundings).

Sylvia Olsen.
Victoria, BC: Orca, 2005.
107 pp., pbk., $9.95.
ISBN 1-55143-462-8.

Subject Heading:
Native peoples-Canada-Juvenile fiction.

Grades 9-12 / Ages 14-17.

Review by Joanne Peters.

*** /4



Where I come from, kids are divided into two groups. White kids on one side, Indians, or First Nations, on the other. Sides of the room, sides of the field, the smoking pit, the hallway, the washrooms; you name it. We're on one side and they're on the other. They live on one side of the Forks River bridge, and we live on the other side. They hang out in their village, and we hang out in ours. In the city they are called First Nations; out here, they've always been called Indians, and we don't change stuff like that in a hurry.


Like the solid double lines that divide highways, these invisible barriers mark the social and ethno-cultural realities of the village in which 16-year-old Vince and his family live. Vince's parents live "by the rule of the yellow line"; his dad is forthright about his prejudices, while his mom talks tolerance but walks the yellow line, too. And everyone else on their side of the line seems to think and behave the same way. Then, one morning during the 90 minute bus ride to school, Steve, a cool, popular, grade 12 student gives Sherry "the look" - and Sherry looks back at Steve. So, what's the problem? Steve is an Indian, and Sherry, daughter of Vince's parents' closest friends, isn't. They have challenged an entire village, a place where the most important unwritten rule of conduct is "Date your own kind." Soon, Rocky View High School becomes a minefield of taunts, threats, and insults. Caught in the thick of it all, Vince finds himself questioning all sorts of things: Sherry's rejection of him, his friends' tough-guy swaggering and spoiling for a fight, his fears of being beaten to a pulp by some of the Indian guys, and his attraction to another bus rider, Raedawn - Steve's cousin.

      Yellow Line is one of the latest titles in the “Orca Soundings” series of short fiction for reluctant young adult readers, particularly males. Like other Orca titles, it delivers fast-paced, highly readable novels featuring believable protagonists who face real dilemmas. Sylvia Olsen, whose previous work includes White Girl, has lived the tensions experienced by Vince; she knows what it is like to walk the line between white and Indian culture, and she is fair in her presentation of those on both sides of the line. Worth acquiring for any senior high school library collection.


Joanne Peters is a teacher-librarian at Kelvin High School in Winnipeg, MB.

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

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