CM . . . . Volume XVII Number 25. . . .March 4th, 2011.
New York, NY: Simon Pulse (Distributed in Canada by Simon & Schuster Canada), 2010.
381 pp., pbk., $12.99.
Grades 7-9 / Ages 12-14.
Review by Ann Ketcheson.
ďPlan E: Somehow we all need to get back to normal.
Monday the Jenkins Family of Three returns to real life. Dad looks like heís been doing hard labour through the night when he drags himself to the coffeemaker first thing in the morning. He spent the last five days taking care of all of the remaining incidentals surrounding Faithís death. It would probably have taken me a year to get around to contacting everyone affected, but Dadís already called her optometrist, dentist and schoolteachers, old and new. Taking care of all the details is obviously helping him get through it.
His real job, Concord Financial Services, could do without him for another week Iím sure, but heís pushing himself, getting back on that horse. And I understand how it would be easier just to think about numbers right now.
Iíve tried all weekend to come up with a way to tell the church ladies to stop bringing us food. Mom needs to cook again. Cooking is numbers for her.
And for me, numbers, Iíve decided, is school. Iíd never admit it to anyone else, but I actually donít mind school. Of course that wouldnít be apparent from the amount of homework Iíve done this week. Each time I open my schoolbooks, all I can think of is how Faith will never spend another day in classes. Sheíll never graduate, even though she was a good student. I want to keep up my schoolwork, I do, but at the same time it almost doesnít seem fair.
Instead, Iíve spent most of my mind-numbing hours thinking about how Iíll act with Dustin when I go back. Amy and everyone else will be easy, business as usual, but I donít want my boyfriend to think Iím a basket case and not know how to talk to me anymore. I practice phrases like ďHey, howís it goiní?Ē and ďYeah, actually Iím doing okayĒ in front of my mirror until I can pass them off without a flinch..Ē
Brie doesnít get along with her older sister. Faith, as her name implies, is religious and tends to play by the rules. Brie is more self-absorbed, interested mostly in her best friend, Amy, and in her efforts to impress Dustin, her new boyfriend. But when Faith dies suddenly, Brie has no idea how profoundly her life will be affected.
The early chapters of this novel deal with Brieís mourning her sister. She is bewildered not only by the sudden loss but by her own reactions and the reactions of those around her. Her parents donít seem to be able to deal with events; everyone at school seems to centre her out yet ignore her at the same time; Dustin is no help or support at all. In this first part of the novel, emotions are front and centre, and the book seems to be a psychological study of teens, death and the grieving process.
However Jaden changes the focus for readers. One of the ways Brie can hope to make sense of the situation is to learn more about her sister and get to know what type of person she really was. This leads to all sorts of questions, and the book takes on an aura of suspense and mystery. Just who was with Faith when she died? Did she truly fall? Was she pushed? Was it suicide? Brie sets out to find these answers and is helped by two rather unlikely new friends: Tessa, a goth who is a loner and a bit of a terror at school, and Alis, a home-schooled student who becomes an important support and source of information for Brie and eventually a love interest as well. Their roles as detectives and the characteristics Jaden gives them make these two of the most interesting personalities in the book.
Losing Faith is a remarkable first novel. The pacing is excellent with a plot that moves along quickly, particularly in the latter pages as Brie gets closer to discovering the truth, putting herself in danger at the same time. The characters and the school setting are believable. While two main themes of the book are religion and faith, these do not overshadow the romance, the mystery or the adventure, and the novel is in no way preachy. Although the book takes place right after a death and thus has themes of grief and mourning, there are also many scenes which are funny, keeping the overall tone of the book from becoming grim.
Every character in the book has secrets. Much of the plot moves toward unravelling the secret of Faithís death. As Brie learns about her sisterís fate, she also learns about herself and her relationships with her peers as well as with the adults around her Jaden has been able to pull together many themes and many diverse characters in a young adult novel which could be classed in so many areas Ė romance, suspense, psychology, religion. And she weaves them seamlessly into a book that pulls you in on page one and never lets go. We can hope that after this ambitious and admirable beginning Jaden will go on to give readers the gift of many more novels.
Ann Ketcheson is a retired teacher-librarian and high school teacher of English and French who lives in Ottawa, ON.
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