________________ CM . . . . Volume XVI Number 16. . . .December 18, 2009

cover

Best Laid Plans. (Side Streets).

Christine Hart.
Toronto, ON: James Lorimer, 2009.
150 pp., pbk. & hc., $9.95 (pbk.), $16.95 (hc.).
ISBN 978-1-55277-446-5 (pbk.),
ISBN 978-1-55277-447-2 (hc.).

Subject Headings:
Problem families -Juvenile fiction.
Dreams -Juvenile fiction
.

Grades 7-12 / Ages 12-17.

Review by Emily Sobool.

*** /4

   

excerpt:

Perfect! They couldn't let her have this one week free of drama. A family emergency? Yeah, right, she thought. What could possibly be that important? Sitting on one of the stainless-steel chairs, Robyn stared out the kitchen window, searching for a reaction she could deliver to her mother that would express how unfair it was to be called back early. Nothing came.

Only five more months and I'll be out, she thought. Whatever it takes.

While working as an employment counsellor, Christine Hart regularly encountered youth who were being held back by their parents, an experience that prompted her to write this book. Best Laid Plans is the story of Robyn Earle's last year of high school in Coldstream, BC, and her dream of escaping the poverty her family has struggled with all her life. She is convinced that acceptance into university is her chance to make a better life for herself, even if it means leaving her family behind.

     The portrayal of Robyn's family life is realistic and dynamic. Hart's representation of poverty as it intersects with alcoholism is perfectly pitched. Robyn’s mother and father serve as a barrier to her potential success by encouraging her to work for them on the family orchard rather than pursue her dream to be an architect, and Robyn is dismayed that her father feels entitled to the money that she earns at her job. Robyn’s struggle to rise above her parents’ negative influence is contrasted by her younger sister, Janeen, who seems to be destined to follow in her mother's footsteps.

     Robyn is highly driven in her studies and cares deeply about achieving good grades in her classes. Some readers will be inspired by her strong work ethic and appreciate the depiction of a passionate and motivated working-class teen who is able to work hard to reach her goals. To others, her constant stress and anxiety about school and her family's financial problems may negatively impact her character's likeability. Her two best friends, Hanna and Becca, seem to lead carefree middle-class lives, and the two girls are frequently depicted as having fun together while Robyn observes from the sidelines. The similarity of the names Hanna and Becca are echoed in their characterization, a situation which reinforces Robyn's sense of separateness from her friends.

     Best Laid Plans joins Lorimer's “Side Streets” series of accessible, high-interest teen fiction for reluctant readers. According to the publisher, “Side Streets” novels feature exciting plots with mystery and suspense as well as believable characters, situations and dialogue. In the case of Best Laid Plans, believability occurs at the expense of excitement; the story of Robyn Earle's final year of high school in the small Okanagan community of Coldstream accurately captures the pervasive boredom encountered by teens stranded in small towns. Readers of the novel in similar living situations will relate to the various mischievous adventures that Robyn and her friends are able to create for themselves in spite of their "nothing of a town." Given that the authenticity of the setting is one of the novel's main strengths, it was not surprising to learn to that Hart spent much of her youth in a small Okanagan town not far from Coldstream.

     Best Laid Plans joins Lorimer's “Side Streets” series of accessible, high-interest teen fiction for reluctant readers. According to the publisher, “Side Streets” novels feature exciting plots with mystery and suspense as well as believable characters, situations and dialogue. In the case of Best Laid Plans, believability occurs at the expense of excitement; the story of Robyn Earle's final year of high school in the small Okanagan community of Coldstream accurately captures the pervasive boredom encountered by teens stranded in small towns. Readers of the novel in similar living situations will relate to the various mischievous adventures that Robyn and her friends are able to create for themselves in spite of their "nothing of a town." Given that the authenticity of the setting is one of the novel's main strengths, it was not surprising to learn to that Hart spent much of her youth in a small Okanagan town not far from Coldstream.

     Christine Hart lives in Victoria, BC, and her first YA novel, Watching July, won a 2008 Moonbeam Gold Medal. Best Laid Plans is a well-written story about a tenacious 18-year-old girl who strives for a better life.

Recommended.

Emily Sobool is a librarian in Vancouver, BC.

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

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.
Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.
 

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