CM . . .
. Volume XIV Number 14 . . . . March 7, 2008
Seventh grader Craig Trilosky faces a serious dilemma. He has been friends with Tom Hanrahan since grade 2, yet has wondered in recent years why he continues to tolerate Tom’s often abusive behaviour towards him. For Craig, the friendship reaches its limit when Tom shows up at his house waving a gun at Craig, insisting they go squirrel hunting in the nearby forest. Craig does his best to resist but eventually gives in. As Tom aims the gun at a scruffy squirrel, Craig realizes he does not want the animal killed. He knocks Tom to the ground, causing the gunshot to shatter a window in a house owned by an Asian family. The event convinces Craig to distance himself entirely from Tom, partly because he fears being considered an accomplice in what the police consider to be a racially-motivated crime.
Yet separating from Tom is easier said than done. Craig recognizes Tom’s good qualities and feels badly about the physical abuse Tom endures from his violent father. Tom eventually confesses to the shooting and takes off before he can be placed into foster care. Knowing Tom is scared and on the run, Craig must decide how far he will go to help a friend who is considered by others to be a bad influence on him.
The most noticeable shortcoming of Gregory Walters’ first novel is its opening which lacks a compelling hook to pull the reader into Craig’s story. In the initial chapter, Craig describes the many dull things in his life, such as his ‘mundane’ family, his mother’s volunteer work, his sister’s endless talking on the phone, and his lack of friends at school. Readers may find this narrative itself dull:
Short chapters and guy-focused action will appeal especially to males in grades 6 to 8, some of whom may recognize in themselves the same sense of isolation and lack of belonging felt by Craig. The challenge for those readers who pick up the book on their own will be getting past the brief but slow opening chapter, and into the action that reveals a sometimes awkward, but not unusual, friendship between two boys. Creating an authentic voice is a challenge for any writer, but Walters’ comes closer to the mark as the novel progresses. The somewhat static cover, which does convey elements of the content within, should help promote the book to browsers. Overall, Fouling Out shows Walters’ potential as a writer, and Orca would be wise to encourage another title from this new talent. A good public and school library purchase.
Thom Knutson is the Youth Services Coordinator at Saskatoon Public Library in Saskatoon, SK.
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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.