________________ CM . . . . Volume XIX Number 7. . . .October 19, 2012


Coming Clean. (Orca Soundings).

Jeff Ross.
Victoria, BC: Orca, 2012.
112 pp., pbk., hc., pdf & epub, $9.95 (pbk.), $16.95 (hc.).
ISBN 978-1-4598-0331-2 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-4598-0332-9 (hc.), ISBN 978-1-4598-0333-6 (pdf), ISBN 978-1-4598-0334-3 (epub).

Grades 7 and up / Ages 12 and up.

Review by B. MacDougall.

***½ /4

Reviewed from Advance Review Copy.



Adam came home for two days before the police arrived to take him for his first of many court appearances. There were a lot of charges against him. Dealing drugs was at the top of the list. ...Adam told the police the same story, the one where Sly had him handing out the drugs and nothing more, over and over again, but no one wanted to listen. The problem was he'd lied to them before. He'd run away. And it was only at the last minute that he came clean about giving Mary Jane the drugs that had killed her.

I felt like that was the most courageous thing he had ever done. No matter what happened, it seemed to me that Adam had redeemed himself with that one admission. He could have gone on lying. In fact, he might have got away with it. But he finally stopped telling stories and, instead, admitted his part.


Coming Clean is a quick paced story, compelling and real. One of the most noteworthy aspects of this book is that it's about making choices, and that, even if you've made a bad choice to start, you can change course and make good ones instead. Positive change comes from believing in one's self and not necessarily listening to what others say about you - definitely tough stuff for teenagers. Readers are introduced to the main character, Rob, younger brother of Adam who has just hooked him up to a plum gig to DJ for three hours on Friday night at the local all ages club in town beginning at 9:00 p.m. But Rob is skeptical of his brother as he is "far too often full of it."

      Rob calls his friend Matt to tell him that he's going to be driving him and his crates of LP's to The Disco. In return, Rob will get his friend into the booth to work the lights.

"I'd just got the next song flowing when someone shoved me hard to the side. I stumbled and tripped over one of my record crates, my headphones popping off as I went down. "What is this shit?" DJ Sly said. He ripped the needle across the LP. The speakers all snapped with the sound...."What's this all about? Who is this clown?" Sly was looking down at me. .... "That's my brother, man," Adam yelled.

     Just at the end of the set, the power goes off and stays off. On their way out of the club, Rob, Adam and Matt find Mary Jane, 15, below the booth on the floor, unmoving. Mary Jane, who is a girl Rob had once thought about asking out, is in the same grade and in some of the same school classes as he is.

He turned to face me. His eyes were filled with water, tears ran down his cheeks. "I killed her," he screamed. "I screwed up. Man, did I ever screw up. She OD'd," he said. "And I was the one who gave her the drugs."...."There's going to be an investigation. As soon as the police start asking who people were getting the drugs from, my name is going to come up. I guess this is why Sly had it set up this way. He never talked to anyone about drugs. He never handled anything out or was seen with the money."

I looked out the window. Adam had been used. He knew it, I knew it, but neither of us was going to say it. Adam was the front. The one everyone knew."

     Adam's first solution was to run away. But, he came back to see if he could find some evidence at the club that would clear his name. Sly has been too clever for that. Adam then tried confronting Sly, hoping that he would admit to his part, but it didn't work.

Rob went to visit Adam in prison. Adam said "The counsellor says asking why isn't useful. Not now. Anyway I know why....Because I'm a bad person."

"No, you're not," I said. "Man, not even close. You made a bad choice."

     Teenagers spend much of their time just surviving the morphing process into adulthood. No longer children, they are expected to make decisions, sometimes with incomplete information. Books like Coming Clean address topics, such as drug abuse, that parents are often loath to approach. Here, in the safety of a fictional world, readers can explore for themselves the circumstances that can bring a person down. In Coming Clean, readers learn about the power of choice.

Highly Recommended.

B. MacDougall is a Junior/Senior School Librarian in the Canadian Foot Hills.

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

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