CM . . .
. Volume XIV Number 21. . . .June 13, 2008
Marked. (Orca Currents).
Victoria, BC: Orca, 2008.
103 pp., pbk. & hc., $9.95 (pbk.), $16.95 (hc.).
ISBN 978-1-55143-992-1 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-55143-994-5(hc.).
Grades 5-9 / Ages 10-14.
Review by Deborah Mervold.
It all started when I ran into Dave Marsh, a youth worker who was assigned to me the last time I was in trouble. I kind of got the shakes when I saw him. He is one of those dead-serious guys who can look you in the eye and know that you're hiding something from him. He can also tell what it is you don't want him to know. I saw him coming out of a store down the block, and I immediately tuned to walk in the other direction. I wasn't afraid of him or anything. It's just that, well, I didn't want to talk to him, given how most of our conversations had gone in the past.
I was half-turned around when I heard his booming voice call my name, "Colin Watson."
It was as if he had called out "Freeze!" Because that's what I did. I froze. Then I took a deep breath and turned to face him.
Colin has had some trouble in his life. He lives with his mom who wants Colin to succeed and who takes a job so that she can be home with him in the evening. When he encounters Dave, Colin is convinced to take a summer job with the power company to clean up the graffiti in the neighbourhood. He is given a route, and each morning he has a list of priority locations to remove the graffiti. Because he is interested in art, he takes notice of the patterns and realizes that the same person or people are continually marking the same locations.
There is one pattern which seems to be different from the rest. At first, he is not sure if it a marking by the company, and so he copies it down. His boss, Strike, warns him about gangs who may not like the fact that he is cleaning up their markings. Strike tells Colin that a kid who had the job last year person ended up in the hospital after he was attacked by gang members. Colin is nervous and watches for trouble. Wanting to keep the job and make his mom proud, he works diligently at his task.
Colin meets Alyssa, who is a dog walker. She doesn't seem too friendly, but once he helps her with a runaway dog belonging to her brother, she talks to him when he sees her. One morning when he starts with his usual spot, there is a police cruiser in front of a well-kept home. There has been a break-in and robbery. The neighbors are upset, and everyone is talking. Colin overhears two women talk about their own security systems. The next day when Colin is cleaning up more graffiti, another robbery has occurred. The police question Colin because he has been seen in the area. He shows them his identification and his work order, but they are still suspicious. Colin is nervous to get involved because of his previous problems with the law. Colin knows he must figure out what is going on, and he starts with the strange markings which don't seem to fit the graffiti pattern.
Norah McClintock writes a high interest novel with a reading level of 3.3. The vocabulary is suitable for the intended audience as the dialogue is realistic but not juvenile. Language is also suitable for early teen readers. Descriptive language adds colour to the story which is told in first person. Characters act in a believable way even though the plot is short and simple. The mystery is complex enough to engage the reader and hold the interest of both male and female readers. Colin's solving the mystery is due to his observation and trust in Dave. He struggles with what to do after he discovers the answers. The short chapters make Marked a good selection for reluctant readers.
The writing, characters, plot, language, all add to the engaging story on a contemporary topic. Its realism and simplicity make this an excellent choice for high school and public libraries. It would be a good choice for a small group novel study. This book is recommended for reluctant readers and early teen readers as well as readers of realistic fiction, adventure and mystery.
Deborah Mervold is an educator and teacher librarian from Shellbrook, SK. She is presently employed by Saskatchewan Institute of Applied Science and Technology (SIAST) working in the areas of faculty training and program development.
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