CM . . . . Volume XVII Number 35. . . .May 13, 2011.
The Cupid War.
Woodbury, MN: Flux, 2011.
234 pp., pbk., $11.50.
Grades 7-11 / Ages 12-16.
Review by Ann Ketcheson.
Reviewed from Advance Reading Copy.
“Were you trying to steal from Owen’s Love?” Louis asked Fallon. “That’s the biggest offense we have, you know.”
“He was waiting for me,” Caleb said, arriving with two fistfuls of Love.
“What d’you think you’re doin’ with that?” Louis said, pointing at Caleb’s haul. “He’s gotta earn his own, and he ain’t gonna do it lyin’ around on...”
“Oh, stop it!” Caleb said, and he tossed the Love down into Fallon’s lap and stormed over to Louis. “He was attacked by a Suicide. We could have lost him. You, of all people, should respect that.”
Louis’ eyes went wide. So did Owen’s. Fallon looked from them to Caleb, wondering what would happen next.
“Okay, he can have some of your Love,” Louis said. “But only enough to get him back on his feet. Then it’s back to work for both of you.” With that, Louise turned and walked off.
“Hey, sorry dude,” Owen said, kneeling beside Fallon. “I didn’t know you’d been...I’m sorry. Take some more of mine. But just a little bit, okay?”
“He’ll be fine with what I brought him,” Caleb said. “Eat up, Fallon.”
He did. Voraciously. It was still cheesy and corny, but it was the best cheese and corn he’d ever tasted in his life. And death.
In a bizarre case of ‘accidental suicide,’ Ricky Fallon steps down from the concrete railing of the bridge from which he was planning to jump to his death, slips on the cell phone he’d put nearby, and falls backward off the bridge. In the afterlife, he is designated a Cupid, whose job is to return to earth and help people fall in love. As pleasant and happy as this sounds, Fallon finds out that there is a group called the Suicides who want to take happiness out of individuals and eventually weigh down the world in unhappiness and depression. Fallon is in for the fight of his afterlife!
In his third novel for young adults, Timothy Carter once again delivers a quirky plot, a cast of zany characters, and a great deal to think about ...and proves once again that a sense of humour is invaluable when facing difficult facts. The plot is pure fantasy, set partly in the Cupid Centre, Fallon’s afterlife headquarters. The Centre is filled with rows of red cubes which are blocks of Love the Cupids can use to recharge themselves. There are Portals between the Centre and the real world. A Cupid simply stands at the Portal, concentrates on his destination, and in seconds he arrives.
Fallon, the main character and novice Cupid, is a vehicle through which Carter can introduce readers to this new world and the way it works. Tough, determined, and quick to learn, Fallon soon impresses his mentor with his ability to fall in love. He isn’t content with this, however, and so comes face to face with the Suicides who do their best to take over his soul. Despite the disbelief of other Cupids, Fallon is sure he has found an entirely new breed of Suicide which isn’t ghost-like but has actually assumed a human form.
Other characters in the novel are detailed and believable whether they are among the Cupid ranks, the demanding Cupid boss, Louis, or the teens on earth with whom Fallon is ordered to work. The Cupids are the force of good in the world, but each is an individual with his or her own personality quirks.
Carter’s sub-theme centres on probing the difficult area of depression. In the novel, it is cause by Suicide attacks which leave their victims powerless to get rid of the overwhelming lassitude they engender. The Suicides feed on negativity and low self-esteem Carter probes this gently and humorously with his fantasy characters but appears to see the fight against depression and suicide as part of the larger struggle of Good vs. Evil or, in this case, Love vs. Self-loathing.
Carter is not, however, content to simply allow the forces of good to win by some magical means. Instead, when Fallon is attacked by Suicides and is almost overtaken, readers see he has some options. Fallon talks to mentors and friends both in the Cupid realm and the real world. He learns to meditate and connect with what he calls the Source. He recharges by eating from his cube of Love, i.e. allowing love to pull him from despair. At another time, Fallon realizes the value of a mirror in helping him see himself and actually love himself.
The Cupid War is light and easy, full of funny scenes, humorous dialogue, an interesting cast of characters and plenty of entertainment. As in his other novels, Carter uses both satire and humour to probe the question of how to deal with serious matters, such as depression and suicide in teens. Fortunately the Cupids win the war, showing readers that the darkest feelings can, with some help, be fought against and even overcome. I looked forward to this book and wasn’t disappointed. Once again, Timothy Carter has penned a winner.
Ann Ketcheson is a retired teacher-librarian and retired teacher of English and French who lives in Ottawa, ON.
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