CM . . .
. Volume VIII Number 9 . . . . January 4, 2002
Gavin's family situation is so horrendous that he often retreats to his friend Trist's home where he revels in the easy give and take of the seemingly perfect McVeigh family. Gavin is in love with Trist's older sister, Jasey. Slowly, inexorably, this position of safety begins to erode as Jasey and Trist face the fact that Huntington's Disease, which has reduced their great uncle to a shell in a nursing home, has also begun to claim their beloved grandfather. Huntington's is a genetic disease, and so Jasey and Trist know that they also may contract this devastating illness. As anxiety rises in the McVeigh household, Jasey begins to act out, getting involved with Gavin's older brother, Blake, a bully who is a stooge for the local drug dealer. Gavin's sympathetic, supportive teacher persists in teaching him to read, and Gavin persists in helping his brother in spite of Blake's abuse. The violence that permeates this novel culminates in a horrifying gun incident. Saving Jasey is, however, ultimately an uplifting story in which the characters choose forgiveness and life over revenge and despair.
The dialogue rings true to life. There are many amusing and touching school scenes. The lead sentence sets the reader's hair on end and the novel's final sentence evokes a satisfied sigh of recognition and relief. Gavin, Grandpa McVeigh and Gavin's battling parents are particularly well drawn. Gavin's mother is the epitome of the battered wife. Her husband, himself an abused child, creates an unpredictable bullying atmosphere in which his smoldering anger both terrifies and repels. Gavin is the quintessential grade eight boy, a boy becoming a man who still wants the love and security of a family. Saving Jasey shines an unflinching light on contemporary family life, showing how difficult it can be to overcome chronic illness and child abuse.
Joan Marshall is the teacher-librarian at Fort Richmond Collegiate in Winnipeg, MB.
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