CM . . .
. Volume XVII Number 23. . . .February 18, 2011
Blink & Caution.
Sommerville, MA: Candlewick Press (Distributed in Canada by Random House of Canada), 2011.
342 pp., hardcover & E-book, $19.00 (hc.), $16.99 (E-book, available directly from Candlewick).
ISBN 978-0-7636-3983-9 (hardcover), ISBN 978-0-7636-5455-9 (E-book).
Grades 9-12 / Ages 14-17.
Review by Joan Marshall.
Reviewed from Advance Reading Copy.
"So what happened?" he says.
"What do you mean?"
"Why'd you leave?"
She grips the wheel tight. "I already told you. I murdered someone."
"Now you're lying again."
"I am not."
"Yes, you are. I can tell. All that stuff about your mom and dad sounded like the truth. The murder sounded different."
"Well, what do you know about it? Somebody got killed. I killed him. How does that sound?"
He doesn't say anything for a bit. Maybe because you bit his head off.
"I believe you," he says.
"But those are two different things."
"What do you mean?"
He lifts his feet up and puts them on the dashboard. He wraps his arms around his knees.
If I killed my stepfather," he says, "that would be murder."
She waits, but he doesn't go on. She wants him to complete the equation, but when she thinks about it, he doesn't really need to. She knows what he's saying: that you can kill someone by accident; that it's only murder when you mean to do it. And she didn't mean to kill Spence. It was an accident. Everybody told her it was an accident. Nobody blamed her. Nobody but herself.
"Was it your brother?" says Blink.
She can't think how he figured that out. She wonders, suddenly, if this is just the next stage of the nightmare. The part that seems like escape but isn't. Because you can't escape. Not ever.
"Yes," she says.
In this rivetting novel, Blink and Caution struggle back up out of homelessness and hopelessness by working together to solve the puzzle of the disappearance of Jack Niven, a business executive. While scavenging food from hotel hallway doorways, Blink gets involved in what looks like a staged abduction. Using Niven's cell phone and money from Niven's wallet, Blink begins to track the story. When the cell phone rings and he answers it, he connects with the executive's daughter, Alyson, who convinces him to help her prove that her father is indeed well and holing up at a family fishing lodge near Kingston. Overlapping Blink's story is that of 17-year-old Caution who finally tries to break away from an abusive relationship with Merlin the drug dealer. His videotaping of them having sex and his posting of it online are the final straws, and she makes a run for it. Then she sees Blink naively flashing his newly found money, she grabs it and runs, but ends up on the same train to Kingston with him, apologizes and returns the money. Intrigued by his story, she determines to help him. Her training in rifle shooting comes in handy after they meet up with the executive's thugs, manage to outwit them and escape back to Toronto. In a truly happy ending, not only does Blink find his grandmother and Caution return home to her mother and aunt, but Blink and Caution continue to see each other, tentatively starting a love relationship.
Both Blink and Caution are powerful characters that will draw teen readers like magnets. Blink left home after years of abuse from his stepfather. He is vulnerable and naïve, fighting back Captain Panic and caught up in the cops and robbers excitement of the missing executive. Slowly but surely, Blink starts to become fascinated by the business world of Jack Niven. Caution left home because she couldn't live with how she had accidently killed her beloved brother Spence while she practised target shooting. Older and wiser than Blink, she has the advantage of coming from a loving, educated family. But she's spent a year on the street, punishing herself for her brother's death, so she's hungry, fast, cynical and self-abusive. Both of them are clever enough to take immediate advantage of situations: Blink leaves the stolen cell phone is his hated stepfather's jacket pocket, Caution steals her abuser's money, lets the air out of tires on the thugs' van and surveys the lodge from the branches of a pine tree. The development of their hesitant, touching love relationship, as they learn to trust each other, is heartbreakingly poignant.
Niven, who planned his own disappearance to prevent a hostile takeover of his company, is a powerful man, cool under fire and used to controlling every situation he is in. His daughter Alyson, the spoiled rich girl, also shows her calculating nature as she uses her charm to convince Blink to do her dirty work for her. Caution's cousin Wayne-Ray and Spence's girlfriend, Tamika, are warm, loving people who support Caution during her escape from Merlin.
The gritty Toronto streets are grim and depressing while the spooky darkness near the lodge will keep readers on the edge of their seats.
Italicized flashbacks help to build character development and provide back story. There is an omniscient narrator who talks to the reader and to Blink in a patient, long-suffering tone, gentle and wise. This narrating voice establishes tension and hope, connecting with the reader in a plan to understand the story. It's a brilliant writing device. The pace is relentless, in the present tense, with the characters running from one dreadful situation to another. Readers will be unable to put down this book and will sigh with delight and satisfaction when it is over.
Joan Marshall is a Winnipeg, MB, bookseller.
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