What We Hide

cover artWhat We Hide is a tapestry of teen angst. Many perspectives make up the quilt of the story, all patched together with the common setting of the English boarding school. Most of the characters have secrets, family they are ashamed of, insecurities about friendships, identity crisis, and a lot of pent up sexual frustration.

Since my focus at the moment is Canadian literature for teens, (and this technically qualifies because Marthe Jocelyn is Canadian) I find it difficult to read about English teens and American teens spending time in England. Especially the way Canada is referred to in the first chapter, this doesn’t feel Canadian. The British slang is amusing, and made less confusing by Jenny’s American perspective.

The story is set in the time of the Vietnam war but the way the teens talk and interact feels contemporary. Perhaps I was overly sheltered or naive but I didn’t have nearly as much sex going on in my high school decades after this story takes place and I find it surprising how much is going on in the novel. Many of the characters had or become teen parents, something that I often hear older people complaining about as a “new” phenomenon because of shows like Teen Mom.

There’s good diversity of characters, with representations of more than one ethnicity, sexual orientation and social class. However, all of them feel defined by those characteristics.

I think this story might work better in a different medium, perhaps television? I felt jolted as it jumped from person to person. Format to format. Although I enjoyed the letters embedded in the text the scripts didn’t flow as well.

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Rabbit Ears

Rabbit Earsrabbit ears cover art by Maggie DeVries deals with mature heavy subject matter. The tales of child abuse, drug addiction, prostitution, and death are sad and will be disturbing to some readers.

I found the narration to be disjointed. Sometimes I would miss that the perspective had changed, which doesn’t make sense because the two characters who tell the tale are very different and should have more noticeably distinct voices. Things unfold in a way that is not logical or linear. Some novels make this work, revealing bits in flashbacks, but it doesn’t work well in this one. I only start really connecting with Kaya in the last quarter of the book, and feel like I would have gotten more out of the first half of the novel with the back-story we receive too late.

There were two parts of the narration that worked well. The dissociation Kaya experiences, referring to herself in an odd way, is appropriate for the trauma she has experienced. That Beth felt her father’s illness more through her treatment at school then his behaviour at home was also poignant.

Kaya’s revelations in therapy are important aspects of the story. Readers can see, through her responses to the therapist, how she never understood that her abuser was manipulative or unkind. She thought he was good, except for one flaw, and only in having her situation framed by another’s words does she see what really happened. I think understanding her thought process will instill empathy for abuse victims and maybe help some young people to be aware of unhealthy relationships.

I respect DeVries attempt to portray a survivor of a situation that a loved one did not survive. I think it is well-meaning, but not as well executed as it could have been. My colleagues loved it and didn’t agree with my criticism.

Read-Alikes

 

Depth of Field

Chantel Guertin continues the story of Pippa Greene’s life that began in The Rule of Thirds with the novel Depth of Field . Once again she struggles to balance her father issues, photography aspirations and feelings for boys. It explains enough that you don’t HAVE to read the first book to follow the plot, but stays consistent so if you have read it and liked it, you will enjoy this one a little more.

The novel has many of the same appeals as the first installment in the series; with writing, language, and characters that will appeal to young readers. However, the plot is predictable and not overly original. An enjoyable but perhaps not memorable read.