________________ CM . . . . Volume XVII Number 30 . . . . April 8, 2011


Testify. (Keystone).

Valerie Sherrard.
Toronto, ON: Dundurn Press, 2011.
128 pp., pbk., $9.99.
ISBN 978-1-55488-927-3.

Grades 8-12 / Ages 13-17.

Review by Amy Dawley.

***½ /4

Reviewed from Advance Reading Copy.



"You know what you are? You're pure evil," I say, keeping my gaze level on her. I have nothing to offer the others to prove my innocence and I know it would be pointless to try. This room is full of hostility and betrayal and the only thing left for me to do is leave.

I pick up my bag and make my way to the door. Behind me, I hear the buzz of whispers. My throat is tight and tears are threatening to come, but I take deep breaths and fight to stay composed.

As I make my way toward the sidewalk, something makes me turn and look up at the house. And there she is, watching from a window. It's easy to imagine how she managed that. I can picture her telling the others she needed a few moments alone. They would have been so sympathetic toward her as she slipped out of the room, pretending to be overcome with sadness over my deceitfulness.

A smile breaks across her face when she sees me looking at her. She lifts a hand and wiggles her fingers in a strangely gleeful wave. I don't move. I stand there, stone-faced, staring at her as she conducts her bizarre performance. I wonder if I ever knew the real Carrie Freeman at all.

Shana Tremain would do anything to keep her best friend Carrie safe, including lying under oath. When Carrie asks Shana to tell a lie in court to support her statement that her stepfather Joe molested her, Shana doesn't hesitate. The world needs to know the truth about this man, the man who tricked Carrie's mother and the man who everyone thought was such a great guy. To Shana, it doesn't matter if she actually didn't see anything happen between Carrie and Joe. Shana prides herself in sticking by her friend, and Carrie's word is enough.

      But when Carrie begins to act strangely toward Hayley, one of their mutual friends, Shana begins to doubt Carrie's honesty. At first, Shana was jealous of Carrie and Hayley's new closeness, believing that it threatened her own best-friend status with Carrie. But when Carrie ruthlessly turns on Hayley and accuses her of stealing and lying, effectively ostracising her from their group, everything changes. Hayley passionately denies ever stealing or lying to their friends, and the truth in Hayley's sad, pleading eyes convinces Shana that Carrie is up to something. Suddenly, Carrie is hurtful, aggressive, and accusatory to friends that have done everything in their power to support and protect her.

      Author Valerie Sherrard has written a highly entertaining story that illustrates what happens when lies, gossip, and bullying go too far. Testify starts out being a novel about how manipulative, mean, and deceitful teenage girls can be to each other, but it becomes much more than that toward the end. The transformation of Carrie from Queen Bee to pathological liar is depicted so well it's creepy. Readers will cringe at how she manages to stay just one step ahead of her friends that she so deftly manipulates.

      Testify is a solid thriller and mystery story with definite "true crime" aspects, but it manages to hold the reader's attention without resorting to violence of any kind. The creepiness is all in the lies, gossip, and manipulation of one "friend" over another. Readers will be rooting for Shana to figure out how Carrie manages to always come out on top and will be quivering with intensity, eagerly flipping the pages to find out what happens next. The relatively short length of this novel make it an excellent choice for reluctant teen readers, and its thrilling, how'd-she-do-it plot will keep them reading toward the novel's exciting finale.

Highly Recommended.

Amy Dawley is the teen librarian at the Prince George Public Library in Prince George, BC.

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

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