CM . . .
. Volume XIX Number 6 . . . . October 12, 2012
Melanie Jackson’s new novel, High Wire, is chock full of circus lore. Of all the high-school performers in Circus Sorelli, newcomer Zachary (Zen) Freedman’s powers of concentration might just be the best. He knows how to block things out. He knows how to work hard. He’s on track to become a circus star. He’d be fine, if only the people around him would let him be.
People like Aunt Ellie, Zach’s guardian since an airplane accident killed both his parents two years ago. She decides Zach needs a dog and gets him one. A dog he didn’t, and doesn’t, want. A dog that nearly ruins his act. A dog the circus owner, Zach’s employer, wants gone—immediately. Next comes Jacob (Cubby) Donnell, a three-year veteran of the circus. For some reason Zach can’t fathom, Cubby hates him. He vows to end Zach’s high-wire career before it’s even begun, and sets about doing just that.
If that isn’t enough to make even the coolest performer stumble and fall, there’s Whitney Boothroyd, the star gymnast of the circus. Whitney, herself, is some distraction for Zach. But it’s her socialite mother who threatens to bring the entire circus down after her glittering heirloom necklace is stolen right off her neck during a performance she attends.
If the circus folds and Zach loses his job, he’ll spend the rest of the summer standing in front of his aunt’s organic vegetable store with a placard around his neck. Not a job of choice. Also the end of his performance dreams. To save himself from these fates, Zach turns sleuth.
In her third book in the “Orca Currents” series, Jackson uses her considerable experience and storytelling skills to create an adventure set in what is often considered a magical world. With deft precision, she intertwines the magic of circus with the reality of what it takes to be a part of it. Then she weaves in intrigue. Her characters live real lives and have real dreams. And the uncertainties that beleaguer the young circus troupe are real.
If the mystery, itself, causes this reader to question its premise and execution, it has redeeming features. It is a mystery a young sleuth could solve, and the solution is something of a surprise.
Overall, High Wire is a fast-paced adventure that will appeal to any young reader who has dreamed of “joining a circus”, and to those who like mystery.
Jocelyn Reekie is a writer, editor and publisher in Campbell River, BC. Look for Peregrin Publishing’s first title, Escape, in November 2012.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.