CM . . .
. Volume XX Number 12. . . .November 22, 2013
Told through the eyes of two former best friends, My Side explores issues of social anxiety and peer pressure. The novel gives two grade 10 girls, Addie and Neely, a chance to each tell their version of what happened in the woods. The story initially unfolds from Addieís point of view which clearly paints Neely as the instigator of a bullying incident in the woods. However, the second half of the novel is seen through Neelyís eyes, and readers learn how she, too, was bullied through peer pressure. The novel explores how former best friends can drift apart as they grow up and enter the turbulent world of a large high school. Having grown up together, the girls were both quiet and painfully shy throughout their elementary and middle school years, characteristics which provided the central bond for their friendship. However, as they entered grade 10 at a large high school with several feeder schools, readers can see how each girl reacts differently to her new environment and how each learned to cope. Addie continues to hide from her peers, always quiet and plagued by anxiety. Neely, in an effort to break away from her shy demeanor and reinvent herself as a social butterfly, consequently leaves Addie behind to fend for herself. Itís the pressure to fit in and the willingness to do anything to be accepted that lands Neely in a situation that ruins what was left of her friendship with Addie.
Norah McClintock works very hard to fit the events of a few months into such a short novel. This makes for a story that jumps quickly through time and doesnít leave a lot of wiggle-room to embellish and really explore what the girls are feeling. There is such a wealth of emotion and angst to explore when writing about teens, be it the gut-wrenching feeling of being unable to leave your bed due to anxiety and then hating yourself because of it, or the flutter of your heart when desperately trying to impress someone that you see as your social better. What is beautiful about writing in first person is that it gives readers an opportunity to truly peek into the mind of a character and understand that individualís thoughts, feelings and biases. Addieís feelings of anxiety and loneliness are very relatable emotions for many adolescents, but McClintockís descriptions may come off as clinical, or even seem like the perspective of someone who has never actually experienced what Addie is going through.
Neelyís side of the story may seem like the more standard high school experience of peer pressure and searching for acceptance. Itís in Neelyís side where McClintock hits her stride and the novel begins to make more sense and becomes more engaging, which makes it more disappointing when the novel ends abruptly. There are questions that go unanswered, secondary characters that require more fleshing out, and even the main plot is left as loose ends waiting to be tied. When Addyís character sinks into a deep depression, the topic is glossed over. While the story briefly mentions how Addy is bullied through social media, in todayís climate this issue could have been explored in much greater depth. However, it would make for a first rate discussion in a classroom.
My Side is ultimately a novel about two girls finding their way through the murky territory of high school, the questionable ethics of teenagers, and coming to terms with emotions that are seemingly beyond control. Overall though, the book is worth the read as it covers topics that are relevant to todayís youth and lets readers know that, if they are in a similar situation, they arenít alone.
Barb McDougall is a math teacher at Argyle Alternative High School in Winnipeg, MB. She created and runs the school's lunch time "Book Club".
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other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
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.