________________ CM . . . . Volume XVIII Number 20 . . . . January 27, 2012


Haze. (Orca Sports).

Erin Thomas.
Victoria, BC: Orca, 2012.
175 pp., pbk., $9.95.
ISBN 978-1-4598-0070-0.

Grades 8-11 / Ages 13-16.

Review by Kim Aippersbach.

***½ /4

Reviewed from Advance reading Copy.



Stupid Jeremy and his hiding games. Talking in riddles, never coming right out and telling me or Abby what information he had or why it mattered. Or where he hid it.

The fluorescent light stopped buzzing. All of a sudden, the room felt very still. What if Jeremy had told me where he hid it? The night Steven and Nate had been here. He hadnít had the chance to talk openly. Did he know then that something might happen to him? I tried to remember his words. I sat down and replayed the scene in my head. He had been on his way out, and Steven and Nate were right behind him. Iíd been pissed off at him. What had he said on my way back inside? Something about smaller weights making a difference.

. . .

What if he had already hidden the pictures, or laptop, or flash drive or whatever it was, before Steven and Nate arrived? Or what if something had happened, when Steven and Nate were talking to him, to make him decide to return and hide them the morning before our run? He would have had a hiding place picked out. And maybe he wanted to give me a clue.

Less weight.

Because Bram wants nothing more than to make it onto his schoolís swim team, he puts up with the initiation hazing perpetrated by the older team members. Most of it is embarrassing but harmless, like wearing diapers in the pool. But three years ago, an initiation party led to a studentís death. Now Bramís friend Jeremy may have evidence that Coach was involved in that death. When Jeremy is hit by a car and goes into a coma, his sister, Abby, convinces Bram to help her uncover the truth. Was Coach at that party three years ago? And did he try to kill Jeremy to keep it covered up? Bram finds the incriminating photo of Coach that Jeremy hid in the weight room. Bram chooses to confide in fellow swimmer Nate, who wasnít even on the swim team three years ago, so Bram assumes he could have nothing to do with the death or the cover-up. But it was Nateís father who orchestrated the original cover-up and Jeremyís hit-and-run. Bram and Abby are kidnaped and taken out in a boat to make it look like they drowned accidentally. Bramís swimming skills are tested to the limit as he rescues himself and Abby from attempted murder.

      Haze is fast-paced and readable. The plot is like a crime drama on TV: not well-fleshed out, but suspenseful and easy to follow. The characters are believable; Bramís conflicting motivations for helping Abby are realistic, as are his relationships with his friends both on and off the team. The bad guys are the least well-developed: readers donít know why Coach condones hazing, nor is it explained why Nateís father is willing to murder to protect Coach or how he knows so many professional hit men. They are simply the ďbad guysĒ required by the plot.

      Haze deals with some difficult issues without delving too deeply or getting too philosophical. Thomas suggests how the pressure to go along with a group can make people do things they wouldnít otherwise. The book could be used as the starting point of a discussion of hazing and initiation rites. But this is an adventure novel, not a problem novel.

      Thomas writes efficiently and well. Her passages describing swimming are particularly vivid. The first-person narrative voice is strong and engaging. Haze is aimed at teenage boys and has all the elements to appeal to its target audience. Itís short and exciting and an enjoyable read.

Highly Recommended.

Kim Aippersbach is a freelance editor and writer with three children in Vancouver, BC.

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

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