________________ CM . . . . Volume XV Number 13. . . .February 20, 2009.


Five Minutes More.

Darlene Ryan.
Victoria, BC: Orca, 2009.
212 pp., pbk., $12.95.
ISBN 978-1-55469-006-0.

Grades 7-10 / Ages 12-15.

Review by Ann Ketcheson.


Reviewed from Advance Reading Copy.




"He wouldn't do something like that," I scream at her. "Maybe, maybe..." I'm shaking. "Maybe he didn't love you enough, but he loved me and he wouldn't... he wouldn't just leave me!"

Her body sags. "He was sick," she says softly. She reaches out as if she's going to touch me, but she doesn't. Her hand hovers in the air for a moment and then drops. "He wasn't---," she begins.

I press both hands over my ears and start to hum the way that I did last time she tried to say things I didn't want to hear. Finally she turns and goes out, closing my door behind her. I lay on the bed with my palms tight against my head and keep on humming.

     The death of someone close to us is never easy to handle, and D'Arcy learns this lesson firsthand when her dad passes away. To make this terrible fact even more difficult, she must try to accept that his car accident might actually have been suicide. How can she cope with that reality - - - and her mother, and her 'perfect' half-sister, and her demanding boyfriend? Eventually she meets Seth and hopes her world will return to normal. That isn't destined to happen, or perhaps 'normal ' is something quite different than it used to be.

     Darlene Ryan is a New Brunswick writer who has already written three award-winning young adult novels, and Five Minutes More may well join that group. The novel's strength lies in the portrayal of D'Arcy, the main character. She obviously had a special bond with her father: "My Dad could five-minutes-more me through almost anything" and "I want my life to be normal again. I want the dead empty place inside me to disappear. I want my dad." Understandably, D'Arcy is deeply shaken by his death. She goes through many stages of the grieving process, but Ryan doesn't make D'Arcy predictable. Instead, the character makes both good and bad choices as she blunders her way through an emotional maze. As one might expect, this changes her relationships with her boyfriend, her mother, her best friend. In fact, it irreversibly changes D'Arcy herself. D'Arcy's mother grieves in her own way, causing an understandable friction between parent and teenage child.

     Ryan's settings are well-drawn and believable. The reader sees D'Arcy's reactions and experiences her emotions at the funeral home and during the funeral service. We follow her back to school and witness the problems she has in communicating her feelings, and the difficulty others have in expressing their sympathy for her. Neither her friends nor caring teachers and counsellors are able to break through the new shell D'Arcy has built. Other settings in the novel show D'Arcy trying to escape what her life has become and so we watch her skipping school to go to the movies and hanging out with a group of kids who have their headquarters in a local park.

     Ryan has produced a novel that resonates with complex and realistic characters who exhibit a wide range of emotions. The end of the book is somewhat unexpected and yet is in keeping with the rest. D'Arcy has matured and learned and hopefully has acquired the tools she needs to get on with her life. She is no longer the person she was at the beginning of the novel.

     Although Ryan never preaches, neither does she skirt the issue of suicide. Throughout the novel, there are subtle suggestions regarding the signs and symptoms which might indicate that someone is contemplating taking their own life. Eventually D'Arcy and her mother are helped by counselling, another quiet suggestion on the part of the author.

     Authentic characters, real passions surrounding both death and life and an interesting plot which revolves around the difficult yet not uncommon issue of suicide: young adult fiction doesn't get much better than this.

Highly Recommended.

Ann Ketcheson is a retired teacher-librarian and teacher of high school English and French. She lives in Ottawa, ON, where she has turned her love of travel into a new career as a travel consultant.

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

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