CM . . .
. Volume XVII Number 23. . . .February 18, 2011
Beyond Repair. (Orca Currents).
Victoria, BC: Orca, 2011.
121 pp., pbk. & hc., $9.95 (pbk.), $16.95 (RLB).
ISBN 978-1-55469-816-5 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-55469-817-2 (RLB).
Grades 6-9 / Ages 11-14.
Review by Kay Weisman.
Reviewed from Advance Reading Copy.
She's yelling at a man who is leaning on a shovel. She's probably mad because the shovel is making a great gouge in her daffodil bed. As she waves her arms, her purse swings to and fro. When it hits the man's leg, he moves aside. Then he leans toward Mom, talking right into her face.
...I can only make out a bit of what she's saying. "You have no business…!" she yells. "I'll report you. If I catch you…"
The man steps closer, as if he's begging.
...Mom turns her back on him and heads for the house. As she flings open the front door and rushes inside, a gust of cold air swirls in the room. The door slams behind her.
Her face is very pale. Her eyelashes glisten with tears. She's breathing hard.
"What was that about?" I ask. "Who is that?"
She takes a deep breath in, then lets it shudder out of her as she stares through me. She opens her mouth, but no words come out. Tears wash down her face.
She takes another ragged breath. "That…" She waves toward the front door and gulps "That's the man who killed your father."
Grade 11 student Cameron Gifford has struggled in the months since the driver of a blue pickup truck struck and killed his father. Mom now works the night shift at a local hospital, leaving Cam in charge of his obstreperous younger sister, Leah, as well as having to do the grocery shopping and many other household chores. His extended family often reminds him that he is now the man of the house, responsible for taking care of his mother and sister, and he takes this duty seriously. Then suddenly, the driver of the blue pickup is everywhere—trying to shovel their walks, appearing at the video store where Cameron works, and hiding out in the coffee aisle at the Shop-Rite. Cameron is angry (why won't this man, Bryan Klausen, leave his family alone?) and intimidated to think that Klausen may be stalking them. Finally, he confronts the driver, convincing him that his well-intentioned attempts to "help" are misguided since they can never bring back Cameron's father.
Peterson, the author of Silver Rain and The Ballad of Knuckles McGraw (both 2010) writes accomplished suspense, especially given the limitations placed on high interest-low vocabulary titles. Readers will be hard-pressed to stop at the end of each short chapter, and the author convincingly conveys Cameron's fear and confusion (Is Klausen really stalking him, or does he see different people each time?) as he sifts through his options, deciding how best to handle the situation.
Characters, even Cameron's deceased father, are complex and multi-dimensional. Cameron and his mom both admit that Dad wasn't a perfect husband or father and that he probably wasn't paying attention when he took his final fatal walk down the street. The accident is clearly no one's fault—and yet, he is gone forever, and no good deeds by anyone will ever bring him back.
Although the book's slim size and large print will communicate the story's Hi-Lo intent, Peterson's novel should find an audience with suspense fans of all reading levels.
Kay Weisman is a Master of Arts in Children's Literature candidate at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, BC.
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