________________ CM . . . . Volume XVII Number 26. . . .March 11, 2011


Viral. (Orca Soundings).

Alex Van Tol.
Victoria, BC: Orca, 2011.
131 pp., pbk. & hc., $9.95 (pbk.), $16.95 (RLB).
ISBN 978-1-55469-411-2 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-55469-412-9 (RLB).

Grades 7-12 / Ages 12-17.

Review by Jeannine Stickle.

**1/2 /4

Reviewed from Advance Reading Copy.



On Thursday, I arrive at school to find the worst has happened. The video has gone viral throughout the school. People are talking about it. Texting about it. Forwarding it to each other. Huddling in little groups in the field, watching it on their phones and iPods. The teachers are clueless, what else is new. Everyone's trying to figure out who it is. Names are flying, but none stick. I'm glad for Lindsay's sake they can't identify her. They can't tell who the guy is either. Josh and his buddies must be locked up on that. He's smart. He knows enough not to let himself be identified.

I pass a group of people whispering near the locker room. I wonder if Lindsay has seen the video yet, or if she's avoiding it. She's avoiding me, there's no doubt about that. Every time I saw her yesterday she turned and headed in a different direction.


High school teenager Mike fights to save his friendship with his best friend, Lindsay, as well as her reputation and her life in this engaging, fast-paced high-interest, low-reading level novel. When the story opens, Mike has realized that he has developed feelings for Lindsay, and he is fairly sure that she feels the same way. He is working up the courage to talk to her about it when a promiscuous girl comes on to him, and, when Lindsay catches her kissing him, she disappears before Mike can explain. She spends the entire summer vacation away and, when school starts again in the Fall, she has turned from a tomboy to a prissy girl who hangs out with the most popular girls in the school. Despite Mike's persistent efforts to talk to her, she continues to avoid Mike and treats him coldly. One night at a party, Mike watches as the drunk and high Lindsay is approached by two of the most popular boys in school who lead her into a bedroom upstairs. Mike is not able to stop them from taking advantage of her, and he is only able to get to Lindsay after they have left. When they return to school, Mike learns that one of the boys had sex with her while the other filmed it, and the video soon goes viral among the students. Unable to convince Lindsay to take action, Mike is able to at least stop the spread of the video after fighting one of the boys. When he goes to find Lindsay at her house to tell her the news, he arrives just in time to find her still alive after she has taken a bottle of sleeping pills, and he saves her life by taking her to the hospital.

      The novel deals realistically with many of the issues that it raises, discussing teenage partying and alcohol and drug use matter-of-factly and without judgment, and portraying characters who display both safe and unsafe behaviour while participating. It also deals realistically with the realities of sexual victimization. Lindsay expresses to Mike that she is reluctant to go to the police about what happened because she would become a social outcast. When Mike realizes that she is right, he becomes frustrated with a society that would punish the victim more than her attacker. However, Lindsay's reactions to the events of the story seem slightly overly dramatic at times, especially changing her friend group and behaviour so drastically as a result of Mike's behavior, without ever giving him a chance to explain. Though Lindsay's situation at the end of the novel could potentially lead to attempted suicide for a depressed teenager, it occurs so suddenly that it, too, comes across as overly dramatic. Overall, however, these moments do not detract too much from the appeal of the story, and the fast pace of the novel and the compelling story are sure to keep readers interested. Viral is a recommended purchase for public and school libraries with an already solid collection of high-interest low-reading level books.


Jeannine Stickle received her MLIS from the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, BC and is working in a library in Portland, OR.

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

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