CM . . .
. Volume XVII Number 3. . . .September 17, 2010
Toronto, ON: Dundurn Press, 2010.
196 pp., pbk., $12.99.
Grades 7-10 / Ages 12-15.
Review by Beth Wilcox.
Reviewed from Advance Review Copy.
During my brief life, my name was John McCallum. I was the fifth John to live at 10 Colborne Street. Although I wasnít born in the house, it was the core of my childhood, the witness to my awkward adolescence, and my home when this young life was cut off so suddenly Ė like a limp sapling severed by the gardenerís shears. But although my life was short, over time my roots have grown surprisingly long and deep. Theyíve remained with the house even after so many years have passed, after other families have come and gone, and in the years since, the building has taken on a new life of its own as a library.
Granted, Iím not the only one. There are other people with roots here. Iíve passed their cold souls in the hallways, heard them moaning at night, smelled their earthy scents. My own mother is one of them although, ironically, she canít seem to see my face as much as she searches for it. Yes, this house has been a magnet for the unsettled. And yet I can assure you that none of the others have an attachment to this place as strong as mine.
Lure, Deborah Kerbelís latest YA novel, artfully engages readers in a ghost story inspired by reported supernatural occurrences at a historic location in Thornhill, ON. Sixteen-year-old Max is new to Thornhill when he finds himself lured to the library at 10 Colborne Street by ghosts who need his help to solve the mystery of Johnís death.
The story is told in alternating chapters by Johnís ghost and by Max. The identity of the first-person narrator is always clear as his name appears at the beginning of each chapter. Demonstrating her skill as a writer, Kerbel is able to create two unique voices that combine to narrate the novel in a cohesive manner. In chapters narrated by Max, he focuses in on his immediate experiences as he learns about the hauntings at the library from his attractive new friend, Caroline. Max is an insecure adolescent character who frequently emphasizes his loneliness and his uncertainty regarding how to best handle his sexual attraction to Caroline. In contrast to Maxís focus on his immediate situation and his adolescent angst, Johnís nostalgic narration looks back upon his life from the late 1870s through the 1880s from a distance. Through Johnís character, Kerbel adds significant depth to the novel as John conveys both a youthful spirit forever stagnant in adolescence and the wisdom gained over a century of reflection.
The two narrators give a well-written sense of dramatic irony to the novel. Johnís memories allow the reader to know who is haunting Max before Max, himself, discovers this information, but readers are nonetheless kept in suspense. It is not until the final chapters that the reader learns how John died or what he wants Max to find. The twists and surprises the readers encounter are generally believable and exciting to the very end. The only notable exception to this believability arises from the revelation of Carolineís secret. Although her secret is shocking and works well to surprise the reader out of a tidy ending, upon reflection, readers may find it detracts from the novelís sense of authenticity.
The storyís basis in actual events will appeal to many young readers. While the characters and plot are fictional, the location is real, and some people do believe it to be haunted. The readersí sense that they are in reading a ďrealĒ ghost story is enhanced by the frontispiece (an old photograph of 10 Colborne Street,) as well as from the note before the story and the Afterword, which state that most of the supernatural occurrences related in Lure are documented incidents reported by the libraryís staff and visitors. Canadian readers, especially adolescents in the Greater Toronto Area, will be drawn to this ďtrueĒ ghost story set in their own backyards.
Beth Wilcox is a Master of Arts in Childrenís Literature graduate from the University of British Columbia currently employed as a historic interpreter at Upper Canada Village.
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