CM . . . .
Volume VII Number 12 . . . . February 16, 2001
It was Friday afternoon, the last day of Training Session. Adrien was alone in the cabin, sitting on her bed, skipping yet another staff activity. The only workshops she had attended all week had been led by Aunt Erin, Guy or Gwen, because they were the only instructors who would have noticed or cared about her absence. The lesson she was currently skipping dealt with wilderness camping, and was full of exciting scenarios such as where to set a tent on the side of a hill in a swarm of soldier ants with a storm brewing. After lunch, Connor would be leading a session on staff morale. Adrien had seen the list of exercises on Aunt Erin's desk. The first one involved standing on a fence post and falling backwards into the arms of fellow staff. Bonding was supposed to occur if they caught and cradled you. Fat chance she was showing up for that one.It's summer in Saskatchewan, and 15-year-old Adrien Wood is selling candy and T-shirts at Camp Lakeshore's Tuck' n Tack shop. Having survived a brain aneurysm two years previously, she is frequently hostile, self-pitying, and focused on the prospect of another neurological event. Sensing that a change of place might lead to a change in attitude, Adrien's no-nonsense Aunt Erin offers her niece a job at the camp which she now manages. Since the aneurysm, Adrien has been seeing spirits or sensing the presence of something from another world. And at Camp Lakeshore, their presence becomes stronger.
I read Before Wings in two sittings. It is masterfully written and a great read. It's not easy to tell a story of a teenager still confronting the reality of near-death without becoming sentimental or morbid. Beth Goobie does it well, and along the way, she works in a love interest - Paul Marchand, a soul-mate who also looks beyond this world; family secrets (just how did Aunt Erin change from a vibrant young camp counselor into a woman who battles depression with Prozac and work?); and the all-too-real experience of dealing with guys like Connor Evans (a.k.a. Jock-for-Brains), the good-looking waterfront activities coordinator who has everyone in the palm of his strong, manly hands. There's a bit of tough language in this book (although nothing you wouldn't hear in the halls of any high school), and there is sex (this is a summer camp, after all, and at Camp Lakeshore, the only people past their twenties are Aunt Erin and the "hairnets," the middle-aged Ukrainian ladies who keep the campers fed), but most of it is talked about rather than acted upon.
Before Wings is worth buying. I think that readers from grades 9 through 11 will like it.
Joanne Peters is the teacher-librarian at Kelvin High School in Winnipeg, MB.
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