CM . . . .
Volume V Number 11 . . . . January 29, 1999
"I want the ball," I said. "Every time, every play. I can't help it. All I want is to get the ball."Despite "drive" which made him a high school football star and a champion fund raiser, 18-year-old Jens Friesen finds himself fired from his sale's job at Five Star Ford, overdue on his Winnipeg apartment rent, almost out of funds, and faced with the unexpected arrival of his younger brother, Daniel, 16. A talented blues musician, Daniel owes $5000 for demo tapes to promoter Mogen Kruse who admits Daniel is "one hot guitarist," but, nevertheless, he wants the money. Jens confronts Kruse and impulsively commits to selling the tapes that will rescue Daniel and prevent taxing his already sick father with the additional stress that having to repay Kruse would cause.
Fortunately, Jens still has the demonstrator, a white F-150XL, the dealership provided as a perk. They return home to Isle-des-Sapins where it quickly becomes obvious to Jens that they can't count on Mom and Dad to pay off Kruse. He conceives a plan whereby he and Daniel will "drive" to small towns in Manitoba during a weekend and peddle the tapes at bars, hockey and curling rinks, legions halls, or wherever. Although initially Daniel approaches performing in legion or curling halls reluctantly, Jens bullies him into compliance, then uses his own sales ability to move the tapes. Their first stop is the legion in Starling where Jens not only persuades the members to allow Daniel to play for the evening, but he manages to sell $280 of tapes. The quality of Daniel's performance and a song with strong personal revelations unsettle Jens.
Daniel admits to a performer's need for applause and appreciation. "It's like rain, you know. The way it sounds. It starts off soft, just a few people clapping, and then it pours down like a thunderstorm. And it fills you up." His success encourages him to insist they "drive" to Easton where he has a romantic interest, Chantel, a twenties-plus singer who acts as a catalyst in revealing another dimension to the brothers, their sexuality. The brothers' final destination is Thompson, but a storm stops them in The Pas where, in Rene's Guitar Bar, Daniel finds a fellow enthusiast and jams the night away. Jens, meanwhile, wrestles with his own unfinished business that culminates in near tragedy but results in renewed understanding between the brothers. "Maybe I would always love this "having somewhere to go and a reason to get there," Jens confesses as they finally "drive" on.
With Jens, Wieler creates another engaging and complex teenage male protagonist to complement A.J. of Bad Boy and Rhan of the RanVan trilogy. As narrator, Jens reveals his insights, insecurities, self-doubts, anger, concerns, and family secrets. Under his brashness and bravado, Jens struggles with his personal demons that are compounded by his sense of responsibility for the brother he both loves and resents, and his affection for his parents. The conflict between the brothers and Jens' inner turmoil parallel the tension created by the deadlines and debts which "drive" the external plot action. Wieler moves the plot along smartly to a unexpected but satisfying conclusion. Wieler creates multi-dimensional and complex characters with emotional depth whose flaws are balanced by their strengths and whose "drive" influences their actions and decisions.
Darleen Golke works as the teacher-librarian at Fort Richmond Collegiate in Winnipeg, Manitoba.
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