________________ CM . . . . Volume XX Number 4. . . .September 27, 2013


Topspin. (Orca Sports).

Sonya Spreen Bates.
Victoria, BC: Orca, 2013.
147 pp., pbk., pdf & epub., $9.95 (pbk.).
ISBN 978-1-4598-0385-5 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-4598-0386-2 (pdf), ISBN 978-1-4598-0387-9 (epub).

Grades 4-8 / Ages 9-13.

Review by Chris Laurie.

***½ /4

Reviewed from Advance Reading Copy.



“Kat McDonald,” he said, “You’ve been putting your nose where it doesn’t belong.”

I tried to look calm, although my heart was in my throat. “I have no idea what you’re talking about,” I said. I went to move around him, but he sidestepped so I couldn’t get past.

“Yes you do. Let’s have it.” He held his hand out expectantly.

“Have what?” I said, still trying to bluff my way through this.

“Your phone.”

“I’m not giving you-“

In the blink of an eye, he had pinned my wrists behind my back with one hand and pulled my face in against his chest. I felt his other hand rummaging through my pockets. I was just about to scream when he released me and stepped back, holding up my cell phone in triumph.

“Give that back!” I said. “You have no right to take that.”

“You’ll get it back,” he said, thumbing through the menu. I tried to snatch the phone away, but he held it high out of my reach. “Ah, here we are.” He flicked through the pictures. “You’ve been busy for quite some time, haven’t you?” he said, giving me a glimpse of the photos of him and Colby Barrett. He deleted them with a touch of his finger, then scrolled through again, deleting as he went.

“Now keep your nose out of other people’s business.” The words or else were written on his face.


Kat’s head is still spinning. Her father has been transferred from Vancouver, to Sydney, Australia, where she finds she must repeat half of grade eleven. She also finds herself having to prove her tennis abilities anew; she is registered in a junior tennis championship at Melbourne Park. If that isn’t enough, Kat’s partner Miri has been staying out past curfew, drinking. She’s also playing terribly which may cost them a place in the tournament.

     Curious about Miri’s odd behaviour, Kat follows her into town one day and witnesses a clandestine exchange between Miri and Dray Yule. Miri’s boyfriend Hamish is a top competitor in the tournament; Dray trains Hamish’s opponent, Colby. What were they exchanging? Money? Drugs? Kat is determined to find out. As she balances practices and tryouts with investigating, the stakes begin to rise. Strange things are increasingly throwing of Hamish’s games. What started out as simple pranks are beginning to get more serious: setting his clock back so he misses a match, stealing his good-luck medallion, tampering with his racket and, attempted poisoning? Kat thinks that Miri is involved.

     Interspersed with this fun, fast paced mystery, Topspin also treats readers to exhilarating tennis sequences. Kat is matched up with a variety of opponents and must adjust her style to beat theirs. Kat is an intelligent and likeable character whose commitment to her chosen sport is very appealing. Her sleuthing while off the court is as enjoyable and suspense-filled as the best literary female detectives. Action abounds both on and off the courts, speeding the reader along to a satisfying conclusion in this new “Orca Sports” novel, perfect for, but not limited in appeal to ‘tween reluctant readers.

     Sonya Spreen Bates is a Canadian writer living in South Australia. She began writing children’s fiction in 2001, inspired by her two daughters and their love of the stories she told them. Topspin is her first title in the “Orca Sports” series.

Highly Recommended.

Chris Laurie is an Outreach Librarian at Winnipeg Public Library.

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

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