________________ CM . . . . Volume XXII Number 10. . . .November 6, 2015


Exposed. (Retribution).

Judith Graves.
Victoria, BC: Orca, 2015.
137 pp., pbk., pdf & epub, $9.95 (pbk.).
ISBN 978-1-4598-0722-8 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-4598-0724-2 (pdf), ISBN 978-1-4598-0725-9 (epub).

Grades 9-11 / Ages 14-16.

Review by Gillian Lapenskie.

***˝ /4

Reviewed from Advance Reading Copy.


Exposed is a short novel that nevertheless packs a lot of punch as there’s plenty of action and suspense within its not-quite 140 pages. Exposed is one of the three “Retribution” novels by seasoned YA author Judith Graves, who also writes under the name Judith Tewes. The “Retribution” trilogy features a group of resourceful, unique teens who are—for a variety of reasons—out to get revenge on certain adults in their lives who have mistreated or betrayed them. The novels are designed as a “loose” trilogy and can be read and enjoyed in any order.

     The main character of Exposed is Raven, with black hair that looks like the feathers of the bird by the same name. Raven’s name suits her: it seems tough and edgy, just like she is. Although not even 16 yet, she has had already had a rough life. It’s no surprise to the reader that she left home at an early age since her parents were meth addicts and did little to actually raise her. Despite, or more likely because of, this troubled background, Raven is also incredibly courageous and doesn’t seem to need help from anyone.

     When the novel opens, Raven is scaling the side of a building late at night in downtown Vancouver. She’s a good student by day and a teenaged criminal by night, sneaking into parking garages, then stealing cars. She hotwires them and drives them back to a chop shop in an abandoned factory which also happens to be a makeshift home for her and several other kids who would otherwise be homeless.

     It’s an incredibly dangerous way for anyone to make a living, let alone a 15-year-old, but Raven stays calm in the most precarious of situations:

The pounding of my heart grew louder. Almost there. I glanced at the roof edge, only a few feet farther up, only to be blasted by a brilliant white light. Blinded, I froze in place, clung to the wall and turned my head away from the light. Blinked away a serious case of sundogs. Only at two in the morning, it wasn’t the sun beaming down into the night and it wasn’t my heart I’d been hearing, but a police helicopter. The searchlight was aimed at the street below….The cops were hunting someone down. Someone close.

     Raven’s boss, who oversees the whole car theft operation, is a man named Diesel. Like a modern-day Fagin from Oliver Twist, he keeps kids off the streets, but, in turn, they have to become members of the gang working for him. It becomes clear that he’s less a benefactor and more of a cruel puppet-master when one of the young gang members meets a tragic end, and Raven wants revenge. She can’t do it on her own, though, which means she has to reach out to others for help. This proves to be a tough challenge for such a solitary person.

     The secondary characters in this fast-paced novel are an intriguing group. Graves doesn’t give the reader a lot of detail about the other members of the team at the core of these novels as they start to come together. The storyline involving Jo, a new “friend” Raven meets kind of by happenstance, seems rushed and a bit confusing. The scenes involving Emmett, Raven’s love interest, are more effectively done, with intensity and chemistry between the two teens, and they include enough mystery to keep the reader wondering what will happen next with them.

     I like Graves’ dedication for Exposed, which is clearly a message for all the Ravens or Raven-wannabes out there: “To those afraid of heights but who still make the climb”. That’s the kind of spirit that makes Raven such an appealing character and that makes it easy to keep turning the pages of this novel, anticipating the next daunting task Raven and the others will face. Although it tries too hard in a few places, there’s lots of action in Exposed to keep teenaged readers hooked and hopefully lead them to the other novels in the series.

Highly Recommended.

Gillian Lapenskie is a teacher-librarian in Barrie, ON.

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

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