________________ CM . . . . Volume XVII Number 15. . . .December 10, 2010


Knifepoint. (Orca Soundings).

Alex Van Tol.
Victoria, BC: Orca, 2010.
113 pp., pbk. & hc., $9.95 (pbk.), $16.95 (hc.).
ISBN 978-1-55469-305-4 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-55469-306-1. (hc.).

Grades 7-12 / Ages 12-17.

Review by Vasso Tassiopoulos.

*** /4

Reviewed from Advance Reading Copy.



Something in his eyes changes. He likes to see me getting angry, I realize. I feel sick.

He's not normal.

Suddenly my outrage dissolves, replaced by cold fear. It sticks in my throat. Darren takes a step toward me. I jump back, but he grabs my wrist and yanks me around, twisting my arm behind my back. Pain explodes in a series of flashing white and red lights. My body locks up with agony as my shoulder rotates toward the outer edge of its range of motion. I scream. What the hell is going on? How can this be happening to me?

I've never heard myself scream before. Not like this. It's a scream of fear and pain and complete helplessness.

He's going to kill me. The words flash in my head, like neon letters against a dark building. On. Off. On. Off.


Alex Van Tol's first novel, Knifepoint, is a fast paced suspenseful thriller that will keep reluctant readers and general readers who are fans of the suspense genre engaged in the novel from beginning to end. As an "Orca Soundings" novel, the story aims to appeal to reluctant readers and unfolds with a relatable protagonist in her late teens, Jill. Jill's situation from the outset of the novel is relatable to teens who have had to endure tiring summer jobs; she is stuck with a summer job at a ranch as a guide for trail rides on horseback through the mountains. The job leaves her overworked, underpaid, and mistreated. At the onset of the novel's plot, her day is going from bad to worse as she is abandoned by her co-workers for the work day, and she then goes on a horseback ride as a guide through the trails with an attractive stranger, Darren, who turns out to be a killer.

      Van Tol's novel is a quick and easy read that manages to pack a great deal of character development into its action driven plot. The short novel balances action along with substantial character development as well as depth in setting descriptions. Jill turns out to be a relatable and strong female protagonist who is observant, perceptive, and sharp when it comes to escaping the dangerous stranger who is set on killing her. The novel also functions as a cautionary tale conveying the message that people are not always what they seem. When Darren turns out to be a frighteningly dangerous killer, Jill regrets both not initially questioning him as a stranger and not checking to see if he filled out any paperwork before she led him on the trails.

      Van Tol creates a strong and quick thinking heroine who does not give up and continues to strive to survive the grips of the deranged knife wielding killer. Jill's struggle to live and to keep fighting for her life with all her strength will keep readers engrossed in suspense and intent on reading on to find out how she makes it out of the woods alive. Her will to survive and her quick thinking will keep readers who are fans of fast paced suspense novels interested. The novel resolves with a believable ending where Jill is inevitably changed and is trying to find the words to describe the ordeal she has endured.


Vasso Tassiopoulos is currently completing a Master of Arts degree in Children's Literature at the University of British Columbia and currently holds the position of recording secretary for The International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY) Canada.

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

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