________________ CM . . . . Volume XIV Number 2 . . . . September 14, 2007

cover

Finding Cassidy.

Laura Langston.
Toronto, ON: Harper Trophy Canada/ HarperCollins, 2006.        
237 pp., pbk., $15.99.
ISBN 978-0-00-639581-2.

Grades 8-11 / Ages 13-16.

Review by Joan Marshall.

** /4

excerpt:

It took a minute, but when the truth dawned I stared in horrified fascination at my mother, “You mean you slept with another man to get pregnant?”

“Oh, no. No!”  Mom practically giggled. “No, of course not. It was all done in a laboratory. His sperm was…you know…inserted inside…when I was fertile.” She waved her hands in the air to cover her discomfort. “It was all very clean and scientific. Business-like. There was nothing nasty about it.”

Clean and scientific. Business-like.

The bones of most birds are hollow and filled with air. And that’s how I felt. Hollow. As though if somebody said anything else to shock me, my air-filled, insubstantial bones might be crushed under their words.

A voice that sounded like mine said, “So I’m not related to you?”

Dad shook his head. “Biologically, no. That’s why you don’t need to be tested. You don’t have my genes. But I’m still your father, Cass. That doesn’t change.”

Seventeen-year-old Cassidy, the privileged daughter of a successful businesswoman and the deputy mayor of Victoria, BC, leads what she sees as a charmed life: parents who love her, more money than she can spend, and a group of hip friends that includes her bodilicious boyfriend, Jason, who is attending her exclusive high school on a football scholarship. When her father is diagnosed with Huntington’s chorea, a degenerative, genetic neurological illness, Cass’s insistence on her being tested for the illness forces her parents to reveal that Cass is a sperm donor baby (and, therefore, not going to be a victim of Huntington’s). In an attempt to deal with her disgust at her conception and her anger at her parents’ betrayal by keeping her conception a secret, Cass becomes obsessed with discovering her biological father. In the process, she finds out who her
true friends are, and she begins to understand both the true nature of fatherhood and the adult necessity of being able to live with uncertainty.

     Cass is a self-centred, melodramatic drama queen as this book begins. Just when her parents need her the most, in the face of her father’s illness, Cass’s anger and temper tantrums and self-absorption dominate their lives. Only the cruelty of her “friends,” the comfort of the steadfast, pragmatic Jason and the persistence of an old friend, Quinn, set Cass on the road to self-knowledge, empathy for her parents and involvement in the politics of sperm donor babies.

     The icky soup of high school cliques and gossip dominates Cass’ life as she obsesses about when and how she’ll lose her virginity to persistent, lovable Jason. Cass holds a three-year-old grudge against Quinn and seems to spend more time skipping school than in it. Clearly school is not the focus of her life. The dialogue is very true to today’s high schools, with somewhat less swearing than really goes on. Cass’s more than frequent absences from school don’t seem to raise the suspicions and concerns that they would in real life. Cass’s interest in birds is reflected in the chapter heading quotes from her grade 4 project on birds which connect with her present day problems. Both Jason and Quinn are strongly drawn characters that counterbalance Cassidy’s emotional babble.

     As most Canadian high school students are sexually active, it will seem odd to the intended audience that Cass is still a virgin. As a self-described anti-partier, Cass’ sudden slide into intoxication via Jell-O shooters seems a tad unrealistic, even in the light of her reaction to her parents’ secret. However, it is the disgust, shame and misunderstanding of sperm donorship that is so odd. Surely this community, educated and wealthy, would rejoice over the magic of the science that can help people become parents. Unfortunately, the reluctance of Cass’ parents and friends to celebrate her conception creates a red-neck attitude that is truly unbelievable in today’s Canada, making this cynical reviewer wonder who the audience of this book really is. The embarrassment of Cass’ parents seems quite silly, and Cass’s obsession with the identity of her biological father (especially while her real father is so ill) is incredulous.
 
     Younger teen girls who are drawn to the emotional concoctions of high school relationships will love this book. Older teens will be embarrassed by it.

Recommended.

A former high school teacher-librarian, Joan Marshall is now a Winnipeg, MB, bookseller.

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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