CM . . . . Volume XVI Number 41. . . .June 25, 2010.
Just Julie. (Single Voice).
Nadia Xerri-L. Translated by Paula Ayer.
Toronto, ON: Annick Press, 2009.
70 pp., pbk. & hc., $9.95 (pbk.), $19.95 (hc.).
ISBN 978-1-55451-234-8 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-55451-239-3 (hc.).
I Am Not Emmanuelle. (Single Voice).
Carine Tardieu. Translated by Paula Ayer.
Grades 9 and up / Ages 14 and up.
Review by Brianne Grant.
Why does mom keep hoping? There’s nothing of Emmanuelle in me. We were so different that you had to ask yourself if we were really sisters. She was perfection in the form of a girl and I’m the opposite. When she was born, the little doll-faced show-off, she took the best genes from my parents and left me with the worst. It’s horrible, I know, but I keep imaging her body on that day, in the street, after the accident. What was left of all that perfection? (From I am Not Emmanuelle.)
At least here, there are no neighbours looking down their noses at me, like they do at home. At least here, nobody knows that I’m his sister. No one will make the connection between my name and the name of “the killer.” Because here at university, no one bothers reading the local newspapers. “The dead dog reports,” people call them. Here, most people come from the city. And the suburbs and the city are different. They have nothing to do with each other. (From Just Julie.)
The “Single Voice” series’ books contain two short theme-related novellas written in a flip-book format. Originally published in France, these dramatic stories are packed with emotional intensity. I am Not Emmanuelle by Carine Tardieu and Just Julie by Nadia Xerri-L (both translated by Paula Ayer) cover the anxiety, confusion, and emotional/mental stress that family crises cause on young teenagers. These stories move through the inner thought processes of the protagonists. They express an insightful picture of family drama driven by internal emotions rather than the actual events that create the emotional response.
In I am Not Emmanuelle, Adele steals a pack of chewing gum from a store, an act which becomes another reminder that she is not like her sister Emmanuelle. Emmanuelle died two years earlier in an accident, and Adele and her parents continue to cope with the loss. Adele wonders if her parents would not have preferred to have – as she believes – her more perfect sister to have lived instead of her. At times, Adele’s thoughts are extremely dramatic, and it is these intense moments that successfully demonstrate the confusion and angst of the protagonist. Tardieu, in a limited amount of text, creates a complex and rich story.
In Just Julie, the protagonist, Julie, knows a secret about her older – once adored and idolized – brother who now faces a murder trial. Xerri-L. develops intensity and drama in the story by spacing longer sentences around short clipped sentences. The author slowly unwinds Julie’s story while maintaining the emotional intensity of her situation. As Julie wrestles with a major decision about her brother, her internal process remains as fascinating as the plot itself. Xerri-L. has perfectly utilized the short and hard-hitting nature of this “Single Voice” series to unveil a powerful and meaningful work.
Brianne Grant, a recent graduate of the Master of Arts in Children’s Literature program at the University of British Columbia, is now a Research Coordinator for an Early Child Development study at UBC.
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