CM . . .
. Volume XIX Number 8. . . .October 26, 2012
Maddy is in ninth grade and runs on her high schoolís track team. Some of her middle school friends are on the track team too, but Maddy has also made some new friends from other middle schools, both on and off the track. All things considered, Maddy has navigated most of the adjustment to high school pretty well, but the same canít be said for all of her classmates. Some of Maddyís old classmates from middle school have started hanging out with a new group of kids in high school, leaving behind old friendships. A few have even started hanging out with groups of kids that get into trouble by showing up late for class, not showing respect to others, and mouthing off to teachers.
Maddy takes all of this in stride and makes sure she sticks with a good group of friends and has a healthy attitude towards making new friends and blending old friendships with new ones. But when the antics of the troublemakers disrupt the dynamic of the track team and jeopardize an upcoming qualifying race, Maddy canít help but get involved.
At the same time as the track team drama, Maddy has to juggle some other difficult issues: an occasionally strained home environment (including a mysterious and increasingly absentee brother); rivalry between Maddy and her best friend Kat; helping a new friend with her own family trouble, and jealousy from old friends about new friendships. In the end, many of these issues are resolved - for some, not in the way readers would expect - and lessons are learned.
Sidetracked is told from Maddyís perspective and features a large cast of secondary and tertiary characters, most of whom have a role to play, whether itís to provide context, illustrate the differences between the groups that have formed, or to directly influence the outcome of the story. The story flows easily, despite the numerous issues that Maddy has to face. The issues are interwoven smoothly and clearly and do not jump from one to another without a logical progression. Maddy, herself, is a likeable character with a good head on her shoulders, but she also has moments when she falters and isnít perfect, making her a good - and realistic - role model. Overall, the story and its lessons are not preachy, which is beneficial in conveying the message of Sidetracked to its readers.
Sidetracked moves at a moderate pace and uses clear, straightforward language. Combined with its short length, it makes for a fairly quick read. The level of language is suitable for ages 12 and up, or younger for more advanced readers. However, the subject matter is most relevant to grades 8 and 9 since the story is motivated by changes faced by new high school students. Sidetracked is a good read for a student who is not sure what to expect of the transition to high school, or who is experiencing anxiety over the transition, and for those readers interested in reading about sports and athletics.
Kalina Lafreniere is a library technician at Lakehead University in Orillia, ON.
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