________________ CM . . . . Volume XVII Number 33 . . . . April 29, 2011



Edeet Ravel.
Toronto, ON: Annick Press, 2011.
246 pp., pbk. & hc., $12.95 (pbk.), $21.95 (hc.).
ISBN 978-1-55451-282-9 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-55451-283-6 (hc.).

Grades 7-10 / Ages 12-15.

Review by Ann Ketcheson.

**** /4



I nibbled on food all day. I kept wondering whether terrorists would go to all this trouble to prepare tasty meals for me. Maybe it was some sort of last meal ritual. I seemed to remember reading something about chocolates being sent to the families of women who were raped and executed by Saddam Hussein's army.

I sobbed as I ate. I wasn't the sort of person who cried, usually, and I couldn't remember the last time I'd broken down before all this happened. I was more than making up for it now.

I watched the windows darken as evening fell. Loneliness came over me like a physical illness a haunting, hollow, desert-island feeling that was unbearable. I had no phone, no computer, no way of reaching anyone. I longed for company and at the same time I was terrified of who might come.

I was afraid to fall asleep. I piled more items on my barricade: the plate, the mug, spoon and knife, the mop and pail, the shampoo bottle, the empty food containers.

I took the fork to bed with me. If I had the guts, maybe I could poke out the terrorist's or pervert's eyes with it. I wondered why they trusted me with metal cutlery.

Eventually, I dozed off, though I woke continually during the night. I had kept the light on, and each time I woke, I was relieved to see that the barricade was still in place.

I remember dreaming about my dog Pumpkin half poodle, half unknown. We rescued him from a shelter, and he was one of those dogs everyone fell instantly in love with. In my dream I hugged him and kissed him and cried into his fur. When I woke up my pillow was soaking wet.

While on holiday in Greece, 17-year-old Chloe decides to do some sightseeing on her own. Within the next few hours, she is blindfolded, drugged and taken to an empty warehouse. Eventually, her captor appears and assures her she will not be harmed. She is being held ransom for a prisoner exchange, he says, and needs only to be patient and remain calm.

      Those are two states that Ravel's protagonist finds almost impossible to achieve. Understandably, Chloe's emotions run the gamut from fear to rage to almost unimaginable grief as she deals with the reality that she may never again see her family or friends. Her captor seems cold and calculating, and yet, little by little, Chloe gets to know him. He brings small gifts and tries to supply whatever Chloe requests. Chloe's feelings slowly but surely change. She looks forward to her captor's visits, encourages him to stay longer and longer, begins to love him and imagines they might form a couple once the ordeal is over.

      Ravel's characters are honest and life-like depictions. She allows readers to get inside Chloe's head and feel what she's feeling. The power play between Chloe and her captor and the resulting suspense keep readers engrossed throughout the novel. Both have their roles to play as captor and captive; yet, each is described with humanity and understanding.

      Held is written entirely in the first person which again helps readers empathize with Chloe. There is an occasional newspaper article which tells readers that Chloe's friends and family continue to work hard for her release. There are also a few pages with Facebook comments showing the reactions of Chloe's friends. While these various comments from the "real world" are interesting, they do little to advance the plot of the novel.

      Held is dramatic and full of suspense without falling into the genre of horror or becoming too theatrical and emotive. Readers learn on the first page that Chloe has survived her experience and must re-integrate herself into her old life. This is part of the suspense as well because one cannot help but wonder what kind of person Chloe has become after such a harrowing experience. Ravel also never reveals the true relationship between Chloe and her captor. Was she merely manipulated by him? Was her love reciprocated? Were they both merely pawns in someone else's larger game? Ravel doesn't choose to divulge all of her secrets.

      Held is an excellent and timely young adult novel. The news seems to regularly mention hostage takings, and Edeet Ravel has given readers just a glimpse of what that situation might be like. The writing is tight and tense. Are we as strong as we think we are? How would we react under the same type of unrelenting stress? Does such a thing as the Stockholm syndrome really exist? Wisely, Ravel leaves all of these questions for her readers to ponder.

Highly Recommended.

Ann Ketcheson, a retired teacher-librarian and teacher of high school English and French, lives in Ottawa, ON.

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

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