CM . . .
. Volume XIX Number 7. . . .October 19, 2012
Grows That Way.
Fernie, BC: Oolichan Books, 2012.
201 pp., trade pbk., $12.95.
Grades 7-9 / Ages 12-14.
Review by Kim Aippersbach.
I take a deep breath. There are so many things I have to avoid talking about. For the sake of my sanity, there are also things I need to avoid even thinking about. I was trail riding by myself, and I know better and I shouldn't have. My easy-going reliable horse ran away with me and I barely managed to bring him under control with an emergency pulley rein stop. But the most difficult thing is that I saw something unimaginable. That's the part I don't want to think about. My brain folds in on itself any time I retrieve the memory of that creature. How can I possibly explain any of this to Taylor? I will never be able to find the right words.
As it turns out, I needn't have worried. Taylor is busy in the psychic world and out of touch with the perilous planet we are actually occupying.
"Oh this is where you got to," she says. "We had a feeling you'd be here. I've been communicating with Spike and he told me to come this way."
Grows That Way is the third book in Susan Ketchen's series about Sylvia, a girl with Turner's Syndrome who loves horses. In Born That Way and Made that Way, Sylvia learns that her lack of growth is a result of a genetic anomaly and that she will need to take growth hormones and estrogen in order to develop normally. She also learns to ride horses and gets a horse of her own. At the end of Made That Way, Sylvia chooses to stop taking growth hormone because of the side effects and accepts that she will always be short.
Grows That Way begins to deal with Sylvia's sexual development. She is not taking estrogen yet, but she gets her first boyfriend, Logan. Testosterone is the hormone at the center of this story. Sylvia's father may be going through andropause, in which low testosterone levels make him irritable and depressed. Logan's older brother, Franco, is secretly taking testosterone supplements, and the hormone not only makes him hairy and muscular, but it is transferred through the skin to his girlfriend Taylor, Sylvia's cousin, who begins growing hair in embarrassing places. One of the major plot arcs is Sylvia's discovery of Franco's secret and her decision to stand up to him although he frightens her.
The other major plot arc is Sylvia's sighting of a strange animal in the woods that looks like a prehistoric ape. She is afraid she might be going mad, but Logan's father is convinced that she has seen a sasquatch. They go looking in the woods, and he is happy to discover a footprint, while Sylvia sees a second sasquatch and gets over her fear of the hairy creature.
Sylvia is an appealingly funny narrator, and Grows That Way is quirky and fun. Sylvia's development as a character is more believable in this installment of the story. In the previous books, mythical beings, such as unicorns, are introduced but are seen as figments of Sylvia's imagination, making Sylvia seem unbelievably naïve. This book treats the sasquatch and Taylor's telepathy with her horse as real possibilities, and Sylvia's skeptical but open-minded response to them is more convincing.
There is more horse action in this book as Sylvia and her horse Brooklyn learn how to jump. The narrative focuses less on Sylvia's differences and struggles with her Turner's Syndrome, and more on the crazy things hormones do to all of us. It's an offbeat way to look at issues every adolescent has to deal with, and teen readers will appreciate its frank, funny approach.
Kim Aippersbach is a freelance editor and writer with three children in Vancouver, BC.
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