________________ CM . . . . Volume XXIV Number 25 . . . . March 2, 2018


Past Tense.

Star Spider.
Toronto, ON: HarperCollinsCanada, April, 2018.
293 pp., hardcover, $21.99.
ISBN 978-1-44345-211-3.

Grades 8 and up / Ages 13 and up.

Review by Tara Stieglitz.

**** /4

Reviewed from Advance Reading Copy.



Fully dressed, I head out into the hall. I try to avoid the creaks in the floor, even though there's no point because of Dad's earplugs. Still, I miss most of the creaky spots as I make my way down the stairs and out into the street. We live on a quiet side street and it's way past 1:00 a.m., so there's definitely no traffic. I pace up and down beneath the streetlights, on the sidewalk and then on the street. It's been over an hour now. I try to calm my overactive imagination by thinking of Lorelei and our sleepover. I try to conjure up the perfect image of Lorelei sleeping, her face soft and a slight smile curling her lips, but terrible thoughts of fiery car wrecks keep interfering. What if Mom zones out again while she's driving?

Julie Nolan has a lot to deal with. She's in love with her best friend Lorelei but hasn't told her. She's developing a friendship with Lorelei's ex-boyfriend, Henry, and maybe she loves him too, though she's not quite sure. She's dealing with her overbearing teacher, Mr. Gomez, who she fears is in love with her. She's dealing with her mom's developing mental illness, a delusion that her heart has stopped beating and she's died. And Julie's keeping knowledge of that mental illness from her father who's too busy to notice that his wife is spending her days acting out her delusion and neglecting their infant son. Julie is also dealing with typical teen things, high school gossip and rumours, and parties with drinking that she's not completely comfortable with.

      Past Tense is a teen coming-of-age novel told from Julie's perspective. Julie is a likable character, and her growth through the novel is realistic. In the beginning, Julie's devotion to her friend Lorelei blinds her to the way Lorelei manipulates and uses her, but, as Julie gains perspective on her relationship with her longtime best friend and a deeper understanding of herself, she starts to realize that maybe Lorelei isn't such a great friend. The novel deftly portrays Julie and Lorelei's friendship, never villainizing Lorelei. Instead, it has a nuanced portrayal of a friendship that its principals have outgrown as they have aged and their interests have diverged.

      While Past Tense treads the familiar ground of high school drama, Julie's matter-of-fact narration lends it a fresh feel. The novel deals with serious subjects, including teen sexuality, death, and grief, but the light humour of the book prevents it from getting bogged down. Past Tense is an excellent novel, well written with engaging and realistic characters that readers will relate to. It is a must have for any school or public library collection.

Highly Recommended.

Tara Stieglitz is a librarian at MacEwan University in Edmonton, AB.

To comment on this title or this review, contact cm@umanitoba.ca.

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