________________ CM . . . . Volume XX Number 19. . . .January 17, 2014



Gabrielle Prendergast.
Victoria, BC: Orca, 2014.
344 pp., hc., pdf & epub, $19.95 (hc.).
ISBN 978-1-4598-0267-4 (hc.), ISBN 978-1-4598-0268-1 (pdf), ISBN 978-1-4598-0269-8 (epub).

Grades 7-12 / Ages 12-17.

Review by Ann Ketcheson.

**** /4

Reviewed from Advance Reading Copy.




Mom leaves my enrolment form on the counter
With certain things circled and labeled
Easy A is the annotation on these
Chemistry, Physics, Biology
Medical school, she notes.
Medical school!
Calculus –
No kidding.
French –
Non, I inscribe.

I stare out the back window
At the yard baking in the sun
And imagine my grade-twelve year
As a kind of dystopian death match
Where students write florid essays
In the blood of their fallen classmates
Is are dotted with bullet holes
Ts are crossed with tears.

I would think of my future
My aspirations
I DO have them
Somewhere under all of this
I would make the connection between school
And future the way I’m supposed to

But when I think of school all I see
Is smirking spiteful girls
And two clueless boys
Who can never be enough
To protect me.

And when I think of the future
Beyond school it looks
Dangerous, like a destination
I haven’t packed for
Like I’ve arrived in Siberia with
A suitcase full of sarongs and flip-flops
Sunscreen and beach towel
Bikinis and a pink chiffon dress
Like I might just walk out
Into the arctic snow and
Lie down and freeze.


Grade 11 is coming to an end for Ella, and summer holidays have her feeling optimistic and glad to be away from the stresses of school. Life is complicated, however, since Ella has re-united with her boyfriend Samir and is also feeling that her best friend David might become much more than just a friend. Can you love two people at the same time? Meanwhile, although things at school have settled down from earlier in the year (Audacious), Ella is by no means comfortable with her female peers and continues to find herself the target of their malicious behaviour.

     Gabrielle Prendergast continues Ella’s story from Audacious, and the main character is still on a journey of self-discovery and self-understanding. Ella is strong and independent, but her non-conformist attitude can make life difficult for her. She is searching for an identity which constantly seems to elude her. The intensity of her personality makes it difficult for her to fit in both with her peers and her dysfunctional family.

     Capricious is essentially a young adult coming-of-age novel, but it covers a variety of other themes, including homosexuality, drug use, sex, religious prejudice, mental illness, bulimia and bullying. Prendergast is able to allude to these social problems with a sincere and honest voice. She does not drag the novel into some sort of moral sermonizing, nor does she trivialize the issues which Ella and other characters must confront.

     Like Audacious, this novel is written in free verse. Prendergast is able to portray complete characters, an intricate plot and a variety of settings with a minimum of words. This has the advantage of allowing readers to use their imaginations to fill in the blanks with details surmised from the poetry. As well, the novel of over 300 pages often has very little text on a page and so will encourage more reluctant readers to enjoy the work. The use of italics and capital letters in the text as well as the format of the words on the page not only add visual appeal but have an underlying significance which tells readers more about the characters and emotions involved in particular scenes.

     Will the audacious and capricious Ella return in another novel? Prendergast seems to tease readers with some “what if’s?” near the end of the book, suggesting that readers may see more of Ella. I, for one, would look forward to watching her continue to evolve and mature!

Highly Recommended.

Ann Ketcheson is a retired high school teacher-librarian and teacher of English and French who lives in Ottawa, ON.

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

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