CM . . .
. Volume XIX Number 1. . . .September 7, 2012
Devil's Pass. (Seven The Series).
Victoria, BC: Orca, 2012.
235 pp., trade pbk., pdf & epub, $9.95 (pbk.). For pricing information about digital options, including multi-user ebook subscriptions, email firstname.lastname@example.org
ISBN 978-1-5546-9938-4 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-5546-9939-1 (pdf), ISBN 978-1-5546-9940-7 (epub).
Seven (the series) Bundle. ISBN 978-1-4598-0270-4. $59.95.
Grades 6-9 / Ages 11-14.
Review by Crystal Sutherland.
Reviewed from Advance Review Copy.
We glanced at Mr. Divine, who stood at the side of the room holding envelopes fanned out like playing cards.
"Each of these requests, these tasks," David continues, "has been specifically selected for you to fulfill. All of the things you will need to complete your task will be provided-money, tickets, guides. Everything, I am not asking any of you to do anything stupid or unnecessarily reckless- certainly nothing as stupid or reckless as I did (...)."
Seventeen-year-old Jim Webb (he prefers to be called Webb) is no stranger to adventure. When his mother remarried, Webb's new stepfather, Elliot, decided it was time for Webb to learn how to be a man. Elliot prides himself on knowing how to physically punish 'without leaving a mark,' but his true talent is psychological warfare. Webb refuses to give into Elliot's demands no matter what physical punishment Elliot administers; when Elliot holds Webb's small dog Niblet, or asks Webb if he want Charlotte, Webb's mother, to be happy, Webb forgets about his own safety. While Elliot does not say it outright, Webb takes his words to mean that Webb will suffer through the physical abuse, or it will be transferred to Webb's mother who, Elliot knows, Webb would go to extremes to protect. Webb is only eleven when the physical and psychological abuse begins, but it is when Elliot forces Webb to destroy his beloved guitar, given to him by his deceased father, that his spirit begins to crack.
Webb leaves home the day he is caught with drugs at school and is informed by Elliot that he will shave his head, go to military school, and enjoy it. Webb cannot imagine not being able to express himself through his music, and he will not let anyone make decisions for him any more. The next time Webb sees his mother is at his grandfather's funeral. When the family gathers for the reading of the will, Webb sees that his grandfather's unique sense of humour is still with them.
Seven grandsons are each given a task chosen specifically for them which will be completed without assistance from anyone not mentioned in the grandfather's instructions. Webb is given a plane ticket and enough money to more than see him through to the end of his journey; or at least this is what Webb's grandfather tells them in a video recorded prior to his death. Webb has never been good at trusting others, but he now has no choice. He must trust his grandfather although he is given minimal explication and the task will be revealed in pieces. For now, all Webb knows is that he's leaving for the Yukon the next morning.
When Webb notices a couple arguing at the airport, he sees the sort of threatening relationship he had with Elliot. Although he knows, from his experiences with Elliot, how easily a person can be sent into a fit of rage, Webb can't stand by and do nothing. While Webb stops the man from hurting his girlfriend, the man claims one of Webb's teeth, and Webb unfairly ends up in jail for doing the right thing, and no one, including George who his grandfather had arranged to be Webb's guide in the Yukon, points out the man is the real bad guy. Webb later finds out the man, whose name is Brent, is well-known in the town for his bad temper, picking fights, and drinking problem. Webb spends the night wishing he had killed Brent, but thinking about killing Brent only scares Webb; he sees himself turning into the kind of person his stepfather Elliot is, which is the last thing Webb wants to become.
From Toronto to the Arctic to the sweltering southern United States, Webb's adventure unravels one thread at a time. Through this adventure designed specifically for Webb, secrets are revealed, tough decisions made, and the ability to trust rebuilt. His grandfather's quest achieves what it was designed to achieve: Webb becomes the kind of man he wants to be, and the kind of man his grandfather was sure he would become.
Devil's Pass is a fast-paced adventure that will keep readers on the edge of their seats cheering on Webb while guessing what will happen next. Sigmund Brouwer has done a superb job maintaining suspense throughout Devil's Pass while assuring readers nothing will happen that Webb can't handle.
My only reservation about Devil's Pass is the violence: the book is sometimes graphic, and the issue of domestic violence comes up throughout the book. Though some readers could be upset by some of the content; the book could also be a great tool for inspiring discussion of the topic, however.
Devil's Pass is one of seven books in the series. Each book represents the story of one of the seven grandsons, each given a task in their grandfather's will, their tasks having been selected based on the characters' lives and what their grandfather believed would benefit them the most in their journey to adulthood. The stories take place simultaneously and can be read alone or as a series. Having read Webb's story, I am curious to know what his cousins were given by their grandfather. With each book written by a different author, the stories are certain to be very different although they all begin with the reading of the same will.
I highly recommend Devil's Pass while noting the explicit violence which may not be suitable for everyone.
Crystal Sutherland, a MEd (Literacy) and MLIS graduate living in Halifax, NS, is solo-librarian for the Nova Scotia Advisory Council on the Status of Women, an arms-length government agency created to educate the public and advise the provincial government on issues of interest to, and affecting, all women.
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