________________ CM . . . . Volume IX Number 10. . . . January, 2003

cover The Gold Diggers Club.

Karen Rivers.
Victoria, BC: Orca Books, 2002.
136 pp., pbk., $8.95.
ISBN 1-55143-236-6.

Grades 4-7 / Ages 9-12.

Review by Liz Greenaway.

*** /4


Yes indeedy, it's stupid Valentine's Day. Yuck.

I don't know who invented such a stupid day, but my stupid teacher, whose name is Mrs. Whitfield, (although I like to call her Mrs. Witless because she has no sense of humor whatsoever and is always yelling at me) decided that everyone had to make a stupid valentine for another person in the class, and that person had to be someone who was not your friend. For example, if you are a girl, the card has to be for a boy. You can imagine how much fun this is, can't you? So I made my stupid card, and I gave it to this boy named Tim because I think he is cute. A bit cute, not a lot. He dives with me in the Dolphin Diving Club. He is pretty good, but not that good. I used to think he was pretty good, I should say. Used to, as in not anymore. I also used to think he was cute. Now I know he is not cute or even slightly nice.

This is what happened: I made a nice, beautiful card with hearts made of tissue paper and very delicate little Kleenex flowers and ... I kid you not...he opened it and laughed at it and held it up to the light. It was a little wispy, I grant you that, because it was so delicate. And then he BLEW HIS NOSE ON IT. He says he thought it was a Kleenex. I am so mad that I could spit. To make it even worse, the only boy who gave me a valentine was this weird kid named Smith. Smith has braces and his hair is so white it is almost non-existent. From a distance it is the same color as his white skin, so it looks like a bald head. Baldness freaks me out. His card was very nice, though. Very artistic and also funny. Not that it makes it less humiliating to get a card from him. I mean, really. Smith!

The Gold Diggers Club features Carly and her friends introduced in Karen Rivers' award winning novel, Waiting to Dive. Rivers' writing is excellent as she provides an understated but completely believable voice of a 10-year-old grappling with life's challenges to fit in and be liked at home and at school. Her mom has remarried after the death of Carly's father, resulting in Carly's living with two step-sisters. On top of this, her mother is expecting a baby, and Carly is not sure at all how she feels about this.

     Carly is dealing not just with a blended family and adolescence but also the convalescence of her best friend, Montana. In Waiting to Dive, Montana had dived from a rock during a visit to Carly's cottage and ended up with a broken vertebrae. She has recovered almost fully but still tires easily and has trouble keeping up with the rest during their hunt for Brother XII's gold.

     The novel is positioned as a mystery, and yet it is this aspect of the book that is the least satisfying. The back cover includes the questions, "Will they get home in time to be with Carly's mom when she has the baby? Will they ever get home?" Both the questions and the positioning are misleading: the book ends months before the baby is due to arrive. The novel is more about Carly's internal landscape than it is narrative driven. The search for Brother XII's gold actually takes up very little of the novel and ends quickly and clumsily, providing very little suspense.

     That said, Karen Rivers' writing has a perfect pitch in its expression of Carly's feelings. Carly is a very genuine likable character. The tone and theme are reminiscent of novels by Sharon Creech and Kit Pearson. The book is clearly intended to be one in a series, but I suspect it will be the emotional tone, not the mysteries, that keeps readers coming back to the series.

     I'd like to see a bigger book (this one is only 144 pages) that would allow for closure of the emotional issues with which Carly is dealing. The Gold Diggers Club instead ends with a bit of a teaser in the form of "I'll let you know when my brother/sister is born. I don't know for sure, but I suspect that will be the next big adventure in my life."

     The editors seem to be trying to turn the book into something it's not rather than focusing on its strengths. While not a fast-paced mystery, The Gold Diggers Club is a first rate novel for young adults.

Recommended with reservations.

Liz Greenaway is a former bookseller now living in Edmonton, AB, where she stays at home with small children.


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

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Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364