CM . . .
. Volume XIV Number 8 . . . . December 7, 2007
Chickenshit. Dyke. Fat. Sophie Keller wanted to leave the bullying behind when she moved to Victoria, BC, for grade 10. During the summer, she concocted a new image for herself, a shell that would ensure she fit in. Compelling, deftly crafted Out of Order opens as Sophie starts school after a summer of intense dieting.
In the first week of school, Sophie realizes she can “pass” as one of the popular, nearly identical girls similar to the bullies in Ontario. But exciting, crazy, beautiful Zelia Keenan wants to be Sophie’s new best friend. Zelia dares Sophie to panhandle, steal, and get her bellybutton pierced, but Sophie’s conscience prevents her from throwing herself into Zelia’s games wholeheartedly.
Sophie and Zelia are more alike than they realize: neither one really addresses the major issues in her life. Sophie thinks the skinniness she’s wrought on herself through eating disorders protects her from bullying. Zelia’s wildness covers up her insecurities, self-doubt, and anger at her mother and unknown father. Sophie’s beautiful narrative voice expresses her innermost thoughts with honesty and candor, situating the reader in her head, and colours the reader’s understanding of Zelia with Sophie’s tinted lenses. Author Robin Stevenson has brilliantly created a believable protagonist, a powerful antagonist, and a finely balanced cast of supporting characters. All the characters show believable flaws and make equally compelling attempts to make up for them.
Sophie realizes that Zelia’s spiraling out of control. When Zelia needs a place to stay, Sophie’s work-from-home psychologist mother agrees to let her live with them for a few days. Zelia decides they should play psychologist in Sophie’s mother’s office, and in the playacting tells Sophie that she’s involved romantically with her own mother’s boyfriend, Michael. Sophie’s mother catches Zelia looking through her files for info on Michael and demands that she leave. Zelia and Sophie fight, and after Zelia doesn’t turn up at school, Sophie finds out that Zelia had attempted suicide.
Throughout the book, Sophie spends time with two other teens at the horse stable where she finds peace as she rides. As her relationship with Zelia deteriorates, Sophie deepens her relationships with Max and Tavish. Max encourages Sophie to eat, to stand up for herself and to be honest in her relationship with Zelia. Sophie’s friendship with Max also challenges Sophie to examine her sexuality. Sophie’s realistic conclusion is that she’s not sure of her place on the sexuality spectrum, a perspective that is rarely treated with such forthright delicacy in teen fiction.
This novel is impossible to put down.
Jennifer Ariel Caldwell attends SFU’s creative writing program, volunteers for the Red Cedar Award, and works on several library projects in Vancouver, BC.
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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.