CM . . .
. Volume XX Number 6. . . .October 11, 2013
Markham, ON: Red Deer Press, 2013.
273 pp., trade pbk., $12.95.
Bullying in schools-Juvenile fiction.
Friendships in adolescence-Juvenile fiction.
Grades 8-11 / Ages 13-16.
Review by Michelle Superle.
Without warning, the memory of Ronnie’s contorted face flashed across Meredith’s mind. You wait! she heard the girl shout again. You just wait and see! Halfway along the corridor, Meredith faltered, her stomach corkscrewing as she considered the possibility. Yeah, she concluded reluctantly—a scrawled picture of a ticking bomb was Ronnie’s style...
For a split second, Meredith contemplated backtracking down the hall to retrieve the wadded-up threat and take it to Ms. Bishaha in the front office. But then she ditched the thought. When all was said and done, she had no proof Ronnie had drawn the picture, and even if she had, so what? A picture was just a picture; anyone should be able to handle something like that.
Beth Goobie’s new YA novel, The Throne, captures the minutia of high school bullying in chilling detail. Adolescent readers in Grades 8 through 11 will appreciate the regard Goobie pays to threats and power struggles so subtle they might appear absurd to many adults. Certainly Meredith Polk, the story’s 15-year-old protagonist, often wonders if she’s being oversensitive when faced with her bully’s nefarious campaign. But Goobie insists that, even when a threat seems impossible to pin down beyond a wobbly feeling in the gut, it’s real. This subtlety and respect elevates The Throne to a level far above the rash of recent publications released to address a major contemporary social issue: bullying at school.
Meredith Polk is an ordinary, under-the-radar girl. She hangs out with her two best friends, she lives with her aunt, and her days are fairly quiet. But when she starts Grade Ten, she claims the wrong seat in home room—the “throne”. This small decision incites the wrath of one of the most notorious power hounds in the school, Seymour Molyneux. When his tactics to unseat her fail, he relentlessly ramps them up to a dangerous level. All the while, Meredith questions her own motives, the seriousness of Seymour’s actions, and the very nature of power itself.
This novel moves slowly—even exhaustively—through the long days of Meredith’s fear. Readers who enjoy in-depth musing and psychological problem solving will enjoy the ride and learn a great deal about human nature. Readers inclined towards a faster-paced, more action packed story would benefit from the encouragement to persevere with The Throne. They, too, will learn a lot. Ultimately, this quietly powerful novel may help to play a role in eradicating one of the most pressing social issues facing adolescents.
Michelle Superle teaches children’s literature and creative writing courses at the University of the Fraser Valley. She is the author of Black Dog, Dream Dog (Tradewind, 2010) and Contemporary, English-language Indian Children’s Literature (Routledge, 2011).
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