________________ CM . . . . Volume XV Number 3. . . .September 26, 2008


The Book of Michael.

Lesley Choyce.
Calgary, AB: Red Deer Press, 2008.
267 pp., pbk., $12.95.
ISBN 978-0-88995-417-5.

Grades 10-12 / Ages 15-17.

Review by Ann Ketcheson.

**** /4



"Miranda came into my life because I wanted to be bad. When you are a teenage guy and you are heading into your bad phase, when you are pissed off at the world and want to make a statement about how screwed up it all is, when you are cynical and smart and thinking about turning dangerous, you better hope that a good friend comes along and sets you straight. Or you better hope that you run into a really intelligent and sweet girl one like Lisa.

Unfortunately for me, Miranda came along before Lisa.


When he is 16, Michael Grove is convicted of killing his girlfriend. Despite a confession from the actual murderer, Michael is still regarded as a criminal by most of the people he knows. His six months in jail before the real killer confesses have branded him as an ex-con, a danger to society. The next door neighbour, kids at school, even people he has never met look at him with disrespect and even contempt.

     Lesley Choyce describes Michael's relationship with his girlfriend Lisa and his reactions to events after her death with remarkable clarity and empathy. Readers truly get into the mind of a 16-year-old male who experiments with drugs and sex and ends up paying a high price. Ultimately this is a novel of success and survival, but Choyce takes his main character along various routes of self-discovery, and none of them is straightforward or easy. Even at the end of the book, Michael's future is not certain. Choyce hasn't provided any simple answers; there is no convenient genie in the bottle.

      This thought-provoking young adult novel deals with a variety of current issues such as capital punishment, troubled youth and our justice system and how it deals with young offenders. Readers sense just how easy it is for teenage males to make bad decisions, the repercussions of which may last a lifetime. Much of the book is also a study in psychology. Michael gets both advice and attention from many sources, and not all of it is beneficial. Ultimately, he knows that only he can decide what is right for him and how best to handle the problems life has dealt him.

      Choyce writes in the first person, and so we are able to follow Michael's train of thought. Flashbacks take us to happier times before the murder as well as to Michael's time in jail and give an understanding of the many important relationships in his life. Choyce neither praises nor condemns his main character but simply presents Michael's ways of coping with a very harsh reality. Readers are left to make their own judgements.

      The Book of Michael will have great appeal for young adult readers, both male and female. Tension and emotion are the cornerstones of what is a gripping psychological story. The challenging topics woven within the book seem guaranteed to spark interest and discussion among readers.

Highly Recommended.

Ann Ketcheson, a retired teacher-librarian and teacher of high school English and French, 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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ISSN 1201-9364
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