________________ CM . . . . Volume XVII Number 29 . . . . April 1, 2011


The Oracle of Dating.

Allison van Diepen.
Don Mills, ON: Harlequin Teen, 2010.
250 pp., pbk., $11.99.
ISBN 978-0-373-21009-1.

Grades 9-12 / Ages 14-17.

Review by Jan Sahibzada.

** /4



The website color scheme is pink and blue, symbolizing guys and girls. Instead of headings at the top, Tracey created bubbles, which include: About the Oracle; Contact the Oracle; Blog; Links. In the center of the homepage is a large box for a blog that I can update myself. I also post a Q and A of the week, and allow readers to comment.

I like my website to be as interactive as possible, so I put up a new poll once a week. This week's is, If you were stranded on a desert island with one celebrity hottie, who would it be? Next week's will be What's your all-time favourite romantic movie? Other times I create a quiz to test my readers' knowledge of relationships. Widgets of all kinds can be found for free, so polls and quizzes are easy to do. The key is to have a site that people will keep coming back to. Static content won't do. The average reader visits the site several times before asking me a question, so I need to keep them returning.

If I'm online, the Oracle icon will be lit up. Customers wanting to instant message me can click on the icon and five dollars will be deducted from their PayPal account for the first twenty minutes. At first I'd thought using PayPal would be too complicated, but Tracey said it's just a matter of putting the payment button on my page and allowing PayPal to take a small percentage off each transaction. I figured it was worth it, not only because it's easy, but because several customers had stiffed me through the mail.

Kayla may only be 16, but she gives out relationship advice well beyond her years. The key is that no one at her high school knows she's the Oracle of Dating and Kayla hopes to keep it that way. Being the Oracle is not only profitable, although not profitable enough for Kayla to quit her job at Eddie's Grocery (aka the Hellhole), but it's also good preparation for her future career as a relationship counsellor. However, after giving her friend Viv some bad advice, Kayla begins to question her ability and wonders if her crush on classmate Jared has clouded her judgement. After shutting down the Oracle's website, Kayla is forced to deal with her feelings for Jared and has to decide if it's time to out herself as the Oracle once and for all.

      Overall, The Oracle of Dating is a quick, light and, for the most part, an enjoyable read. There is really only one static plot in the novel; the dating problems of high school students. The title of the novel pretty much tells readers what to expect. As a result, the book will most appeal to girls. Readers will be engaged with Kayla. She is an interesting and intelligent main character. As Kayla is the narrator of the novel, readers will be drawn in by her struggle with friends, family and boys. Readers will also relate to the many pop culture references, everything from Clay Aiken to a thinly disguised version of Gossip Girl, know as "Glamour Girl."

      However, while Kayla is a well-balanced and likeable character, the other characters are weak and seem to rely on stereotypes or over exaggerations. Their dating problems are realistic enough, but there's the ditzy popular girl, the brooding art student with the troubled past, the nerdy student who just doesn't get it, and the problem is that none of them really seem to have any depth or development. The most problematic character is Kayla's sister Tracey. Throughout the novel, she relies on her younger sister for relationship guidance and needs the advice because she keeps falling for the wrong guys. Tracey is portrayed as somewhat helpless, and, while she makes some marginal progress, a sense of weakness continues to hang around her.

      Another concern with the novel is there are instances of underage drinking and a lot of discussions and innuendoes about sex. On Kayla's sixteenth birthday, her friends surprise her with fake ID and take her to a New York hot spot where the group drinks and Kayla, while intoxicated, makes out with a guy whose name she doesn't know until later in the evening. Kayla's friends continue to remind her about her behaviour at the club, but otherwise she doesn't face any consequences for her actions. The discussions of sex are fairly innocent, but they are scattered throughout the novel and, combined with the underage drinking, definitely make the book best suited for older readers.

Recommended with reservations.

Jan Sahibzada is a Community Outreach Librarian for Calgary Public Library's Forest Lawn branch.

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

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ISSN 1201-9364
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