Summary: Reef is a young offender who has gotten into trouble more times than he can count. When he and his friends Jink and Bigger find out the city is going to demolish their favourite hang out spot, his anger leads him to make an irreversable decision that will change the lives of himself and Leeza Hemming forever. After the dust settles, Reef finds himself in a group home doing volunteer work while Leeza finds herself in a rehab facility trying to rebuild her body. Both face having to make a choice about going on with their lives, but they find help in the most unexpected place: each other.
Number of Pages: 230
Age Range: 15-17
Review: In The First Stone Don Aker takes the issue of rehabilitating young offenders and ends up creating a well-thought out, plot-driven exploration of one young man’s journey to becoming a productive member of society.
This is another title I love because The First Stone is laced with meaning with the biblical reference and Reef’s habit of collecting stones with his grandmother. I quite enjoyed how Aker used the stones to bring the story full circle and to a meaningful close, even if the relationship between Leeza and Reef is left unresolved.
Aker manages to inject humour into an otherwise serious themed book and is incredibly skilled at maintaining dramatic tension throughout. Even though the reader is not privy to all of the dramatic scenes, Aker finds other ways to satisfy reader curiosity which I appreciated.
I would recommend it for the mid-teens, as it contains mature themes and a fair bit of swearing. Also, if you enjoy this book, there’s a sequel called The Fifth Rule by Aker that continues Leeza’s and Reef’s stories.
On an interesting note, Budge Wilson wrote one of the comments recommending The First Stone featured on the back cover of the book and tomorrow I will be reading her book, The Leaving.
“She’d had a hard enought time trying to explain it to her mother and stepfather, who felt that being around ‘all that pain and suffering,’ as they put it, was the last thing Leeza needed. ‘You don’t have to prove anything,’ they’d said.
Well, maybe they were wrong. Maybe there was plenty she had to prove. Like there was a reason she was still living and breathing when her older sister, Ellen, had stopped doing both six months ago.” – Leeza from The First Stone by Don Aker, pages 17-18
“The judge paused again, was rewarded with silence, then continued. ‘Despite the fact that the public is demanding stiffer punishments. I firmly believe that punishment is not the way to dissuade individuals like yourself from committing crimes such as this one. Numerous studies have shown that incarceration of young people only leads to further instances of criminal behavior. A case in point is your own prior stay at Riverview Correctional Institute.’ A moment passed and, when she spoke again, she addressed the spectators. ‘More important than fear of punishment is the need for compassion, the need for better choices, the need for young people who commit crimes to recognise that they are and will continue to be members of society, and that the actions of everyone in that society impact in some way on every other member.” – Judge Thomas from The First Stone by Don Aker, page 60
“No, she couldn’t blame her stepfather for not wanting to be there. No one else did either. Herself less than anyone.” – Leeza from The First Stone by Don Aker, page 67
“‘Carly told me you were in a car accident.’
Leeza didn’t respond. It hadn’t seemed like a question.
‘Uh . . . Anybody die?’
Leeza said nothing for a while, listened to the morning that filtered through the doorway from somewhere down the hall. Then, ‘Just me,’ she said.” – conversation between Brett and Leeza from The First Stone by Don Aker, page 72
“‘The slanted ceilings make it awfully narrow,’ Alex said, ‘but you have turrets.’
Second Rule or no second rule, Reef lost it. ‘Look, you freak!’ he roared. ‘You may have problems but there’s nothin’ wrong with me! I ain’t got Tourette’s. and I’ll kick the shit outta anyone who says different. Including that sonuvabitch Colville downstairs!’
Alex’s face flickered through several different reactions, like those flip-books that kids make in school when they are bored, riffling the edges of their looseleaf to make a figure change expressions. Alex’s showed surprise, then confusion and, finally, hilarity. Nearly choking with laughter, he managed to gasp, ‘Oh, Reef honey, are you for real?'” – conversation between Alex and Reef from The First Stone by Don Aker, page 84
“‘So, I hear you had quite a day,’ said Leeza’s mother.
Quite a day. Three words. Words Leeza had often used herself when she’d visited Ellen and, later, the kids at the Children’s Hospital. The kind of meaningless comment you make when you really have no idea what someone has been through. Quite a day, indeed.” – Leeza from The First Stone by Don Aker, page 106
“‘Well, Reef,’ said Brett. ‘I was looking forward to seeing more of you, but there’s little chance of that now.’
He looked at her. ‘Why not?’
She nodded at the lunch voucher. ‘Carly’s sending you to the cafeteria. Clearly the woman is trying to kill you.'” – conversation between Brett and Reef from The First Stone by Don Aker, page 135
“Even visits with Jen and Robin weren’t enough to pull her out of her funk. They had come by a few times after her mother had called them, but they hadn’t stayed that long. And Leeza could understand why – it was painful trying to make conversation when they had nothing in common. Leeza’s days were one therapy after another and trying to cope with pain. Theirs were filled with summer jobs, shopping, afternoons at the beach, new boyfriends.” – Leeza from The First Stone by Don Aker, page 140
“It was just a fluke that I ended up where I did. A one-in-a-million chance,’ he said, and he thought briefly of Marlene Eisner feeding coin after coin into those casino slot machines. She’d never understood odds like those. Never would.” – Reef from The First Stone by Don Aker, page 212
“Diane tore her eyes from the empty doorway and stared at Brett. ‘How could he think saying he was sorry would make up for what he did?’
‘I don’t believe,’ Brett said softly, ‘that he thought that.'” – conversation between Diane and Brett from The First Stone by Don Aker, page 222
“He’d thought of the Robert Frost poem they’d read in English class that week, thought of the part about home:
Home is the place where, when you have to go there,
They have to take you in.
Reef wondered if that was what home was for Alex. Hoped it wasn’t true. But he couldn’t get those words out of his head when he and Alex said goodbye for the last time.” – Reef from The First Stone by Don Aker, pages 225-226