________________ CM . . . . Volume XIX Number 14. . . .December 7, 2012


Shallow Grave. (Orca Soundings series).

Salex Van Tol.
Victoria, BC: Orca, 2012.
131 pp., pbk., hc., pdf & epub, $9.95 (pbk.), $16.95 (hc.).
ISBN 978-1-4598-0202-5 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-4598-0203-2 (hc.), ISBN 978-1-4598-0204-9 (pdf), ISBN 978-1-4598-0205-6 (epub).

Grades 9 and up / Ages 14 and up.

Review by Christina Pike.

**** /4

Reviewed from Advance Review Copy.



If it weren’t for this stupid situation, Shannon and I would never have had any reason to cross paths. We don’t run with the same crowds. Not that I have such an established crowd after only seven weeks at Wildwood, but there are some good people in it.

Smart people. People who work hard. People who want to do well in school so they can do well in the world.

I’m not so sure I could say the same about her crowd.

In the last seven days since Mr. Harrison walked in on us in the bushes, I’ve learned how different Shannon and I are as people. “Like chalk and cheese,” my grandmother would say.

I swim for the national team. Shannon writes mouthy articles for the school newspaper.

I work hard and apply myself so my mom’s not wasting her money sending me to school like this. Shannon breaks the rules no matter who’s paying.

I like to look respectable and approachable. Shannon likes to shock people.

I am black. Shannon is white,

End of story.


In Shallow Grave, Alex Van Tol creates a seemingly predictable story of boy meets girl with a few twists thrown in. In this story, the “good” one is the boy, Elliot, who happens to be an A-student jock superstar, and Shannon is the “bad girl” attracted to trouble, has purple hair and multiple piercings. In normal circumstances, these two would never meet, but Van Tol has Elliot trying to come to Shannon’s rescue, getting himself caught up in trouble, and having to serve a detention with Shannon. Added to the mix, Elliot is also black and Shannon is white.

     Shallow Grave is more than a simply story of boy meets girl, they fight then fall in love. Van Tol crosses the boundary of race as well as stereotypes, creating a situation where two very unlikely characters must get over their own prejudices and hang ups and reach out to another person to survive. The title, at first, seems mismatched, unmatched that is until Shannon wants to make a ouiji board and talk to a spirit. Out of this the mystery unfolds and many questions arise. Van Tol also throws in a little murder mystery complete with a ghost to ensure that there are complications. Although the plot seems a little far-fetched, it works because the characters fit the story and make it believable.

     A good read.

Highly Recommended.

Christina Pike is the Principal of St. Paul’s Junior High in St. John’s, NL.

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

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