________________ CM . . . . Volume XX Number 8 . . . . October 25, 2013


Just Gone. (Rapid Reads).

William Kowalski.
Victoria, BC: Raven Books/Orca, 2013.
107 pp., trade pbk, pdf & epub, $9.95 (pbk.).
ISBN 978-1-4598-0327-5 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-4598-0328-2 (pdf), ISBN 978-1-4598-0329-9 (epub).

Grades 8 and up / Ages 13 and up.

Review by Libby McKeever.

**** /4

Reviewed from Advance Reading Copy.



Shelter children have always told wild stories. It's how they explain their world to themselves. They need a way to understand violence, drugs, abuse and, most of all death. So they make up stories and tell them to each other. Sometimes the stories take on a life of their own. They get repeated, and they grow. But I'd never heard a story quite like Jack Wacky before. Then again, I'd never met a little boy like Jamal before, either.

I let him tell his stories. I saw no harm in it. A good imagination is a sign of intelligence in a child. And Jamal was as bright as could be. I knew I was going to miss him, but I couldn't keep them around much longer. I was going to have to find them a real home.

When a 14-year-old girl and her young brother come into the shelter where Mother Angelique works, she asks where their mother was. The girl, Chantay, replied, "Gone...just gone." The children were hungry and dirty, and the little boy, Jamal, was covered in rat bites. When Mother Angelique bent the shelter rules to allow them to stay longer, she found out their mother had been shot in a drive-by shooting, and she knew she needed to help them. Chantay was worried they'd be separated if Mother Angelique reported the incident to the police, but Jamal was convinced that Jacky Wacky, a man who protected poor kids and punished adults who hurt them, would protect them.

      Knowing she couldn't keep them much longer, Mother Angelique found the children a home with one of the shelter volunteers. Unfortunately, this woman abused them, and Jamal disappeared. Strangely, after Mother Angelique rescued Chantay, the women died mysteriously, her hand frozen, pointing at the window. Mother Angelique began to wonder if the stories of Jacky Wacky were true after all. Without her brother, Chantay turned to the streets and fell into addiction. Mother Angelique grew old working at the shelter but continued to hear stories about Jacky Wacky helping young children and wondered about his relationship to Jamal.

      This intriguing, somewhat dark tale delves into the lives of poor children who have suffered violence and abuse. It has an element of fantastical realism shown in the mysterious character of Jacky Wacky. His uncanny ability not to be seen by adults but believed and cherished by children is a thread that provides hope and mystery throughout the novel.

      Just Gone is a title in Raven Books "Rapid Read" series title. The maturity of the subject matter will appeal to older teens and adults who are becoming independent readers. William Kowalski is the award-winning author of five previous adult novels, including the international bestseller Eddie's Bastard. Just Gone is his fourth title in the "Rapid Reads" series.

Highly Recommended.

Libby McKeever is the Youth Services Librarian at the Whistler Public Library in Whistler, BC.

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

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