________________ CM . . . . Volume XVII Number 11. . . .November 12, 2010


Film Studies. (Single Voice).

Caroline Adderson.
Toronto, ON: Annick Press, 2010.
67 pp., pbk. & hc., $9.95 (pbk.), $19.95 (hc.).
ISBN 978-1-55451-260-7 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-55451-261-4 (hc.).

Grades 9-12 / Ages 14-17.

Review by Amy Dawley.

*** /4


The Trouble With Marlene. (Single Voice).

Billie Livingston.
Toronto, ON: Annick Press, 2010.
86 pp., pbk. & hc., $9.95 (pbk.), $19.95 (hc.).
ISBN 978-1-55451-260-7 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-55451-261-4 (hc.).

Grades 9-12 / Ages 14-17.

Review by Amy Dawley.

*** /4



Erlend comes over and kneels beside me and gathers me, wet and shaking, in his arms. I must be dreaming him, but he feels real.

"Cassandra," he murmurs. "Poor Cassandra."

"The tap!" says Aurora, coming out of the bedroom and hurrying to turn it off before the whole kitchen floods. "What's going on?"

And I freeze like the Little Match Girl, stiff in Erlend's arms. They see my surprise and, exchanging a look, both of them laugh. In the middle of this mess, with me sobbing, they laugh? Aurora is only now doing up the sash of her robe. Obviously they thought I'd be delighted to find them together like this. My parents? Are they insane? Erlend left her. He already left her once.

"Are you okay, sweetheart?" Aurora asks as I push away from Erlend and scramble to my feet. "Stay. Sit with us while we have coffee," she says. "You can be late."

"Why didn't you call me?" I scream at Erlend. (From
Film Studies.)

"Stupid, lying—" Suddenly I had the jug in both hands, tilted toward my mouth. The wine sloshed onto my chin as I guzzled.

"How do you like it?" I said, dropping the bottle and letting the rest chug onto the rug. Up off the floor, I yanked open her top drawer. Empty pill bottles rolled around, but I found one still full of Valium and pulled off the lid. Before I could think, I'd dumped them into my mouth.

Breath puffing through my nose, cheeks full of pills, I stood there blinking out tears. I gagged, opened my mouth, and let the pills drop into her drawer. Some stuck to my tongue and the insides of my cheeks with the taste of something dead and rotten, and I had to use my finger to peel them out. Tears were sliding and stinging now. I left the pills where they lay and went into the bathroom to rinse my mouth.

"Everything's because of you!" I screamed back at her bedroom. "You should drop dead, not me!" My hands were shaking. I hate when I cry over her. I hate it. I wish she'd just die, and I was scared she might. (From
The Trouble with Marlene .)


Film Studies chronicles a short instance in the life of Cassandra, a half-Danish daughter of a director and an actress. Cass is disconnected from real life and instead chooses to assume fairytale-like roles every morning before she heads to school. One day she is the Snow Queen, another day she is the Ugly Duckling—whichever suits her best at that moment. Detached from what's going on around her at school, Cass muses on the relationship of her now separated parents and how much it disturbs her that her mother, Aurora, destructively seeks the company of troubled men because she is unable to get over Cass's father. Wanting to be a director just like her father, Cass takes a film studies class and meets Mason, a film connoisseur in his own right. What begins as a simple enough relationship over a shared interest turns complicated as Mason's questions about her father's career force Cass to discover the truth she always suspected but never wanted to know. Cass's life spirals out of control, and before long Cass is unable to tell the division between her own life and that of her parents.

      In The Trouble with Marlene, Samantha's world is turned upside down after her hustler father leaves her and her alcoholic, suicidal mother, Marlene, to fend for themselves. At only 16-years-old, Sammie is suddenly the responsible one in the family and finds herself scamming and shoplifting to be able to put food in the fridge for her and her mother. Sammie's home life is a complete mystery to her classmates who know nothing about her openly suicidal mother. Sammie's constant fear is that her mother will be successful in her wish to die, that one day Marlene will not wake up or never come home. The only person that seems to care is Drew, a teenage boy Sammie's age, who is the only person who knows a little of the truth of her real life. But Sammie thinks that Drew is too good a person to get mixed up in the dark reality of her life, and she is reluctant to let him in.

      Both stories feature young women about the same age who are at a crossroads in their lives and teetering on the brink of oblivion. If they lose their strength and personal resolve, it would be very easy for either of them to fall off the path and lead dark, lonely, and destructive lives. The Trouble With Marlene is perhaps the stronger of the two stories – its clear plot and likeable main character make it easy for readers to empathize with the main character and to become more easily absorbed by the story. Teens who love gritty, real life stories with "what if?" situations are sure to like these stories.

      This "Single Voice" volume features two stories within one thin book, in a flip-over-and-read format that would very much appeal to older teens and reluctant readers looking for a short, compelling, real life story. A conversational writing style, paired with large text size and lots of white space on the page, makes these stories accessible to high interest/low vocabulary readers. This unique format offers an additional benefit: it offers library professionals the opportunity to send readers home with two books rather than one. Should one story in the book not appeal to readers, they can simply flip it over and give the other story a try.


Amy Dawley is the teen librarian at the Prince George Public Library in Prince George, BC.

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

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