CM . . . . Volume XVIII Number 6 . . . . October 7, 2011
Casey Finnegan is a gifted skateboarder who has landed himself a gig as a stunt double in a skateboarding movie. Unfortunately, because the lead in the movie doesn't know how to skateboard, it is up to Casey to train him. However, Casey's skateboarding rival (nicknamed 'Goat') has eyes on Casey's new job and decides to prove himself by challenging Casey to some very risky skateboarding competitions. It's only after Casey and Goat race their skateboards down a steep road closed to skateboarders, and Goat accidentally hurtles himself and his skateboard over a sheer cliff edging the road, that Casey begins to develop the level headedness and maturity to see how his vanity may cost him his job and Goat's life.
Powerslide is written in the first person voice from the perspective of a teen male. The story is well-written and edited and has a believable and fairly engaging plot. The heavy use of dialogue moves the story along at a very brisk pace, perfect for readers who want loads of action. Additionally, Ross's very clear description of the characters' skateboarding feats gives the story a great deal of motion and colour, with the action in the final half of the book making it very difficult to put the book down.
The actions and conversations of Powerslide's characters are very believable and parallel the competitive natures and sometimes ridiculous actions seen in teen boys. Having grown up in a family of three boys, and having taught preteen boys, I find the dangerous and thoughtless dares that Casey and Goat get themselves tied up in to be realistic and to parallel those that I've witnessed and experienced first hand (the latter being much to the chagrin of my parents). Consequently, Powerslide could be used by parents and teachers to open discussions with teen boys regarding the consequences of bending to peer pressure. Without a doubt, any teens who choose to read this book will be challenged to reflect upon the importance of being thoughtful and strong in their decisions – especially if they sense peer pressure forcing them into dangerous situations.
The narrative would definitely appeal to preteen and teen boys, although many female skateboarders will relish reading Ross' clear and adrenaline-soaked descriptions of skateboarders' sensational tricks and stunts. Additionally, girls will enjoy reading how Sara, one of Casey's close skateboarding friends, is able to avoid caving in to peer pressure and instead continues to develop as a safe and capable skateboarder.
Powerslide is comprised of 20 concise chapters, making it a quick read. Moreover, the low readability of the text makes it suitable for readers with reading abilities falling below grade 8. Readers with no knowledge about skateboarding may have difficulty with some of the terms, but this limitation can be easily overcome with some preloading of unfamiliar vocabulary. Struggling readers would have benefitted from a concise glossary.
Powerslide follows on the heels of Ross' first book, The Drop, and is an engaging read for preteens and teens interested in experiencing the fast-paced sport of skateboarding. Additionally, it encourages teen readers to consider the almost assured negative consequences associated with the creation and acceptance of dangerous dares.
Keith McPherson, who has been an elementary teacher and teacher-librarian in BC since 1984, is currently a lecturer for the Department of Language and Literacy Education at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, BC.
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