________________ CM . . . . Volume XIX Number 3 . . . . September 21, 2012


High Wire. (Orca Currents).

Melanie Jackson.
Victoria, BC: Orca, 2012.
117 pp., pbk. & hc., $9.95 (pbk.), $16.95 (hc.).
ISBN 978-1-4598-0236-0 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-4598-0237-7 (hc.).

Grades 5-9 / Ages 10-14.

Review by Jonine Bergen.

**½ /4

Reviewed from Advance Reading Copy.



The thin black line stretched out in front of me.

I stood on the ledge. The spotlight was fixed on me, hot white, and bright. I couldn't see the opposite ledge. I couldn't see the crowd below, watching to see if I'd make it across.

All I saw was that thin black line going from the spotlight into darkness. The line was all that mattered to me.

Zack Freedman has joined Circus Sorelli, a youth troupe, for the summer. Zack loves the feeling of being in control when he is walking the line; nothing gets to him, nothing matters. Off the line, things could not be more different. He may be Zen on the line, but on the ground he is still a displaced orphan living with an aunt in the city of Maple Ridge, far from the life he led on his family's ranch in Alberta.

      Zack dreams of becoming a famous high-wire walker, and Mr. Sorelli, the owner of the circus, believes in him, too. Unfortunately, not everyone feels the same way. Zack's roommate, Cubby, hates him and is trying to trip him up. To add to Zack's problems, his aunt gives him a present of a dog and then leaves town on a trip. Unfortunately, all pets are forbidden. As a result, Sorelli gives him an ultimatum: get rid of the dog or leave the circus. It may not matter if Zack is kicked out, though, because, when a necklace is stolen during one of the shows, it looks like the circus may be shut down for good. To save the circus and himself - Zack must learn to see beyond the act and judge what is real and what is illusion.

      As with the rest of the high interest "Orca Currents" series, High Wire provides readers a plot seasoned with suspense and action. The danger of the high wire, combined with the mystery of the missing necklace, will keep readers turning pages. Into this mix, Jackson has placed several interesting characters whose interplay creates a credible whodunit. The confusion surrounding the mystery is compounded as the clues are presented through Zack's narrow point of view.

      Although Jackson has created an interesting narrative, I would have liked her to spend more time developing the groundwork for the climax so the end would not feel contrived. She created the motive for the theft and added the slight-of-hand needed in a good mystery but the ending still falls flat. Still, the circus setting, high-wire scenes, and the pacing of the novel will appeal to many readers.


Jonine Bergen is a school librarian in Winnipeg. MB.

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

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