________________ CM . . . . Volume XV Number 5. . . .October 24, 2008


Scum. (Orca Soundings).

James C. Dekker.
Victoria, BC: Orca Books, 2008.
95 pp., pbk. & hc., $9.95 (pbk.), $16.95 (hc.).
ISBN 978-1-55143-942-2 (pbk),. ISBN 978-1-55143-926-6 (hc.).

Grades 7 and up / Ages 12 and up.

Review by Christina Pike.

*** /4



"Mrs. Carter?" the shorter man says. Surprise registers on my mother's face, and I realize they can't be Jehovah's Witnesses. They know her name. Suddenly I get the feeling that something is wrong. "Are you related to Daniel Carter?" The shorter man says. That's when it hits me. These guys are cops. I can't count the number of times I have I've told him, One of these days you're going to get busted. I can't count the number of times I've told him, What do you think Mom's going to do when the cops show up at the front door asking questions about you? But you can't tell Danny anything. You never could. The company he keeps– he thinks he's smarter and tougher and faster than anyone else, especially the cops. But here they are, at our door, just like I told him they would be one day. And now Mom's about to find out what Danny's been up to, and it's going to kill her. My mother is frowning. She knows that something's wrong. She says, "He's my son. Why? What's this all about?" I think it's about Danny finally getting busted. It's about him not being as smart and as tough and as fast as he thinks. It's about the cops not being as dumb and as slow as he always makes them out to be.


Megan Carter's older brother is shot in a bar in the early hours of the morning and dies on the way to the hospital. Even though there are about 50 people in the bar, no one sees or hears anything. The family is torn apart by the unspoken secrets no one is willing to talk about. In the end, the family finds comfort in finally voicing their thoughts and admitting Danny's faults and blame in his own shooting.

     Scum is a novel about family relationships and how unspoken secrets can tear a family apart. Megan knows her brother for all he is or was, her father knows Danny's faults, and his mother too is aware of what Danny did to make a living. No one though wants to voice what they know to the other, and they go to extreme lengths to make sure this secret is not found out. It seems that if they admit what it actually means, "Danny was known to the police," they will somehow tarnish Danny's memory and their own reputation. This speaks to what family truly means and the lengths it will go to protect its own. It also shows how family unconditionally love. Scum is what Danny was, and it was his own making. A good read.

     Although it seems important throughout the novel to know the identity of Danny's killer, it really is not necessary to the storyline.


Christina Pike is the Principal of St. Francis School in Harbour Grace, NL.

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

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