________________ CM . . . . Volume IX Number 17 . . . . April 25, 2003


No Problem. (Orca Soundings).

Dayle Campbell Gaetz.
Victoria, BC: Orca, 2003.
92 pp., pbk., $9.95.
ISBN 1-55143-231-5.

Grades 7-11 / Ages 12-16.

Review by Joanne Peters.

***½ /4


"Hey, Rachel!" Stuart called. I waved and we walked away.

"What's with her?" I asked.

"She likes teasing the young guys," Stuart said. "But don't start thinking she'll go out with you or anything. It ain't gonna happen. Besides she's way old!" He glanced at me. "Hey, man, did you hurt your pitching arm lifting those heavy cases?"

I realized I was rubbing my right shoulder . . . My shoulder ached, but not too bad. I could handle it. I had no chance. Baseball season was about to start.

The next day at tryouts, Stuart and I both made the junior men's team. We were done with midget baseball, and the Falcons' coach was the best in the league. I knew Stuart would be awesome on first base. Coach Watson said I was the best pitcher he had seen in years.

That should keep my father happy. The thing is, back in the old days, he almost got to pitch for a major league team. Then he broke his arm and that was that. Now it's my turn.

Anyway, between baseball, school, and my part-time job I didn't have time for much else. Until I met Leah.

Fittingly, Curt meets Leah while he stocks shelves at the grocery store where he works with his baseball team-mate, Stuart. She's gorgeous and a truly sweet person, attends Curt's next three baseball games, and pretty soon, the boy is in love. However, Curt's dad is not so keen on the relationship - time spent with Leah is time that could be spent on extra baseball practice. Not surprisingly, father and son are at war over this. Curt likes baseball, but a career in the major leagues is his dad's dream, not his. The pressures of school, sport, and romance get to Curt. Adding to all that, he starts taking more medication than he should in order to manage the pain from his shoulder injury. Grogginess from the pills causes him to over-sleep, miss appointments, and interferes with concentration at school. And then one day, Leah doesn't show up at a game, and Curt's pitching is abysmal.

     At work, Rachel notices Curt's low mood, as well as Leah's absence. Contrary to Stuart's claim that Rachel would never go out with him, she invites Curt over to her place, a run-down basement apartment. After a few beers, which go straight to Curt's head and empty stomach, Rachel brings out some cocaine and urges him to try it. He realizes that "I should have said no. But I just stared at that innocent-looking white powder and said nothing." And, whether because alcohol makes him lose his caution, or out of a desperate need to show that he isn't a "little kid", he does try it. The high temporarily kills all the pain in his life, but soon he's addicted and losing everything that is important to him, including Leah.

     Fortunately for Curt, people care about him: his friend Stuart, his parents, and most important of all, Leah, whose father's battle with alcoholism makes her acutely aware that Curt's denial of his problem is the problem. "No Problem" is the mantra of all addicts, and this novel shows just how insidious that denial can be. No Problem is a recent offering from the “Orca Soundings” series - the books are short, the characters are realistic, and they face all of the angst-ridden issues of adolescence. Although the reading level is low (Grade 2.2), it certainly kept my interest! And I am pretty certain that it would hold the interest of a young reader (probably male) who is a non-reader. Finding material for this group is always a challenge, and No Problem certainly meets it.

     No Problem is definitely recommended for middle school and high school libraries. As with others in the “Orca Soundings” series, it provides that elusive "high-interest/low level" book to recommend to students who believe "reading sucks" because they have a hard time reading and have never finished a book. I think that they'll stick with this one.

Highly Recommended.

Joanne Peters is a teacher-librarian in Winnipeg, MB.

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

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