Book Reviews

When Everything Feels Like the Movies by Raziel Reid

Posted by on Dec 7, 2014 in Book Reviews, British Columbia | 0 comments

When Everything Feels Like the MoviesSummary: Despite facing prejudice on a daily basis for wearing makeup and dressing like a girl, Jude views life in the context of filming a movie in which Jude’s own experiences are the subject matter. Everyone in Jude’s life has a part to play, from the crew to the paparazzi and fans. Jude is in love with Luke, one of the movie stars of the production, and is irrepressible in expressing interest, even when punished for it. As Jude’s movie approaches its’ ending, Jude’s intentions to leave small town life and start over triumphantly in Hollywood are conquered by a surprising rewrite.

Number of Pages: 171

Age Range: 16-18

Review: The power of Jude’s story is in its unique perspective. Stuck in a small town, bullied at school with a best friend who can’t always be trusted and a dicey abusive family situation, the cards seem to be stacked against Jude. But pretending everything is just a part of a movie helps ease Jude’s experience as an outsider by seeing it through a new lens. First-time author Raziel Reid skillfully promotes this view with specific chapter titles relating to the film industry and detailed explanations of each person’s role in the production of the movie that is Jude’s life.

As Jude is not a reliable narrator, invested in choosing the best and most dramatic scenes for the movie narrative, it is hard to determine how old Jude and friend Angela actually are. Angela has sex with multiple partners and uses abortions as birth control suggesting she is an older high school student, but at one point she comments that by having sex with Luke’s older brother Troy, she will be able to say she slept with the high school quarterback when she gets to high school. Does that mean they are in grade nine in a middle school or perhaps even younger than that?

What touched me most in Reid’s novel was the acceptance from Jude’s younger brother. Keefer. Able to see Jude and love without reserve or restriction, it is Keefer who is able to provide Jude with a final dignity and act of understanding. Given his father Roy’s extreme reaction to the one time Keefer tried Jude’s lipstick, it would be easy to understand Keefer withdrawing from Jude, but he doesn’t. The way Reid portrays Keefer’s heart through his innocence and kindness make him my favourite.

Jude is an effervescent character trying to find a way in the world despite others’ judgement of a gender fluid expression of self. Containing scenes of extreme violence, sexual encounters, bullying and abortion as well as several culture references, Reid’s book is an intense but multi-faceted, challenging read for older teens with many layers to sift through.

Memorable Quotes:

“Matt’s skateboard came for my head before I could duck. He kept hitting me even when I was down. Later, the doctors worried that he’d injured the ventromedial prefrontal cortex part of my brain, which can leave you without morals or compassion. I was disappointed that it wasn’t damaged, because wouldn’t it be nice not to give a shit?” – Jude from When Everything Feels Like the Movies by Raziel Reid, page 11-12

“In the first picture ever taken of me, I’m lying in the hospital nursery wrapped in a yellow blanket. Not blue like all the other baby boys or pink like all the girls. It was a yellow blanket, which I kept my whole life. I’d sleep with it every night. Even when I was too old and it embarrassed me, I loved it. But then I always loved things that didn’t love me back.


I used to wonder if the parents who looked at my yellow blanket in the nursery with all the other babies though I was a little boy or girl. If it mattered. If, on my first day on earth, I wasn’t either.


I was just beautiful.” – Jude from When Everything Feels Like the Movies by Raziel Reid, page 17

“‘It’ was another one of my stage names. It  was my JLo. People meant it to be insulting, but I found It empowering. I always thought they were referring to the Stephen King novel because of my ability to shape-shift into their greatest fear. It’s amazing what a pair of heels can do.” – Jude from When Everything Feels Like the Movies by Raziel Reid, page 24

“‘You know, Jude,’ Mr. Dawson said once Luke had walked off, his voice sudden;t softer as he faced me from the doorway, ‘there’s something I hope you always remember, especially when you’re trying to make it big in Tinseltown.’


‘Always get the money first?’


‘That it’s better to be hated for who you are than loved for who you’re not.’ – Conversation between Mr. Dawson and Jude from When Everything Feels Like the Movies by Raziel Reid, page 100

When Everything Feels Like the Movies by Raziel Reid is published by Arsenal Pulp Press, (2014).

Roxy by PJ Reece

Posted by on Dec 6, 2014 in Book Reviews, British Columbia | 0 comments

RoxySummary: While attending the funeral of her despised great aunt, Roxy’s mother receives a phone call about her estranged father. He’s in a coma, and because her mother is completely overwhelmed at the thought of dealing with him, she sends Roxy in her place to Greece to sort things out. Just before she leaves however, Roxy gets some life-altering news herself. Arriving in Greece reveals a web of secrets and lies hiding the truth about her family’s history, as well as a connection to the land and a different kind of life. As Roxy uncovers the truth behind the lies, she also falls in love and decides what to do about her own situation.

Number of Pages: 190

Age Range: 15-17

Review: Growing up believing her mother is dead and her father has completely abandoned her to the care of a cold and bitter relative, Roxy’s mom has not had the best start in life. Her daughter Roxy is the only one who has stood by her over the years, and when faced with contact with a father she believes cares little about her, Roxy is willing to take her mother’s place to travel halfway across the world and deal with the family drama.

Except the drama is greater than Roxy ever could have imagined. Her long-lost grandfather is a writer composing his memoirs and recovering from a failed suicide attempt. Secrets abound about their family history, complicating her grandfather’s upcoming marriage as the local priest has questions.

Meanwhile, Roxy is about to add another branch to their family tree. But before she moves their family forward, she has plenty of unanswered questions about their past. When all of the hurt her mother suffered because of her absent parents turns out to be a mixture of lies and misunderstandings, Roxy is the one who ultimately acts as a stabilising force to support her mother as she faces the truth.

Roxy herself is spirited and persistent, pursuing honest answers to help her make her own decisions for the future. I enjoyed the conflict between her and her grandfather, as her grandfather is a story-teller who is blocked on telling the story of himself. His resistance may slow Roxy down, but she is determined to find out what he is hiding in the end.

A combination of mystery, romance and a journey to self-awareness, Roxy explores the role of family history in providing identity and the roots to ground impending generations.

Memorable Quotes:

“‘Your grandfather is clever like that, always writing his own story in disguise.’


‘Isn’t a novel supposed to be fiction?’


‘The best literature contains a most wonderful code, my dear. They may be flights of fancy, yet absolutely true in the way the characters make you feel. A good character can make you feel like crying for forgiveness for your own sins. Your grandfather has made his readers cry many times.'” – Conversation between Oscar and Roxy from Roxy by PJ Reece, pages 30-31

“Crying, of all things, and after knowing for a week already. I hated myself for acting like such a wuss. He handed me a box of tissues.


‘It is perfectly natural,’ he said. ‘Look where you are, in a doctor’s office.’


‘Does that make it okay?’


‘A patient comes in here to be examined, yes? And sometimes their soul becomes naked too.'” – Conversation between Roxy and Dr. Vassilakis from Roxy by PJ Reece, page 86

“I gave her the rest of the chips, and soon we were laughing, she through her tears, and that’s when I realized what was important in life: sharing your love and whatever else you’ve got. Chips. Sadness. Hopes. Dreams. It didn’t matter that little love-fests like that were rare: a person remembers. That little picnic of truth sustained me for years.” – Roxy from Roxy by PJ Reece, page 106

Roxy by PJ Reece is published by Tradewind Books, (2009).

We Are All Made of Molecules by Susin Nielsen

Posted by on Dec 5, 2014 in Book Reviews, British Columbia | 0 comments

We Are All Made of MoleculesSummary: Thrown together thanks to the blossoming romance of their parents, thirteen year-old Stewart and fourteen year-old Ashley find themselves sharing a house, a school and classes. Polar opposites, Stewart is a socially impaired brainiac while Ashley has trouble finding the right word at times and is at the top of the social ladder at school. Learning to live together isn’t easy, especially when complicated by Stewart’s grief over the death of his mother and Ashley’s reluctance to face the fact that her father is gay. Despite all the roadblocks to their relationship, when Ashley starts dating Jared, a guy Stewart comes to know is bad news, Stewart tries to warn her and protect her. Unfortunately it will take an extreme situation for Ashley to realise Stewart just might be the best brother she never had.

Number of Pages: 248

Age Range: 13-15

Review: We Are All Made of Molecules by Susin Nielsen is the kind of book that makes you sad it’s only 248 pages long.

Stewart and Ashley are unlikely step-siblings, but when their parents get together and Stewart and his father move in with Ashley and her mother, the two have little choice but to adjust to each other. It isn’t easy; while Stewart assumes Ashley is enthusiastic about his arrival, she isn’t, and miscommunications about the objects Stewart and his father bring with them cause some added family tension.

Not to mention the reasons that brought their parents together in the first place. While Stewart endeavours to deal with a new school situation to make his dead mother proud of him, Ashley is trying to keep her high social standing despite the fact that her father has recently come out of the closet. Each have unique methods of dealing with their situations, and Nielsen captures in their voice and perspectives their spirit in doing so.

Ultimately, Nielsen’s story is about a family coming together in a unique and altogether lovely way. Over time, all in the household learn to accommodate each other. Stewart and Ashley may clash, but there are incredible moments when they connect, and Nielsen also explores the adjustment their parents face in learning to parent someone else’s kid. Throw in Ashley’s dad and his partner Michael and it’s a pretty complex arrangement, but there’s just something about this eclectic family that clicks eventually.

I inevitably feel smarter by the time I finish whatever book of Nielsen’s I am reading. References to Einstein, Schrödinger’s Cat, and the complex nature of molecules all challenged me, and I ended up marvelling at Stewart’s intellect and enjoying the way he thinks. His charts are informative and endearing, and with the big heart and earnest nature he has, Stewart is an easily loveable character.

Ashley, on the other hand, takes time to love. With her focus on keeping her position at the top of the social ladder, she is intentionally cruel to the people she calls her friends. While they are cruel in return it doesn’t make it right, and unfortunately this antagonistic, stab-you-in-the-back kind of attitude is detrimental for Lauren when she doesn’t trust Ashley enough to listen to her warnings about Jared. My heart broke for her.

She may take more time than Stewart to embrace their new family, but she does eventually get it. And her response to her understanding is so Ashley yet remarkably mature and thoughtful.

Determining age range was a challenge. While there is such an innocence to Stewart and even Ashley I am tempted to peg it in the 11-13 range, as the book progressed and Ashley’s relationship with Jared develops it becomes clear Jared is violent, bigoted and a bully I felt this turn might be too much for a pre-teen audience. As with The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen, Nielsen’s work straddles the line between intermediate and teen fiction meaning with the more mature younger reader and the less experienced older reader, it can still work. I eventually decided on a 13-15 age range.

There are so many things to write but what I love most about Stewart and Ashley’s story is no matter who the reader is they are bound to be engaged by the characters, laughing out loud and witness to the creation of a family that may be unconventional but at the same time is meant to be together. It’s a story bursting with heart and humour, and I look forward to reading it again when it comes out officially in May.

Memorable Quotes:

“Molecules are made of atoms. When someone dies, their molecules break down, but their individual atoms don’t. So, say a carbon atom is part of a molecule in a person’s leg. When that person dies, that atom could become part of a molecule in something else, like a blooming flower, or even another human being. Or an oxygen atom in your sandwich could end up in a molecule as part of your brain.’




‘Right now, as I’m talking to you, you’re probably picking up a few Stewart molecules and vice versa.’


She slapped her hand over her mouth. ‘Gross!’


‘I don’t think it’s gross. I think it’s kind of beautiful. Everything, and everyone, is interconnected.'” – Conversation between Stewart and Ashley about the nature of molecules from We Are All Made of Molecules by Susin Nielsen, page 120

“Ashley came into the kitchen a few minutes later and grabbed a banana. She glanced over at the table. ‘You made him bacon and eggs for breakfast?’ she said to Caroline. ‘You never make me eggs during the week!’


‘Stewart’s mom died two years ago today.’


Ashley opened her mouth. Then she closed it again. Then she opened it. Then she closed it. She turned to leave the room. Then she turned back and grabbed me from behind, like she was about to give me the Heimlich maneuver.


It was only after she’d left that I realized it was her version of a hug.” – Stewart from We Are All Made of Molecules by Susin Nielsen, page 157

“Still, I can’t believe Ashley managed to put some of the power back into the hands of the little people. That Ashley wound up being a force for change. I told her another one of my favourite Einstein quotes: ‘The world is a dangerous place to live, not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don’t do anything about it.’


She just looked at me and said, ‘How that man went out in public with that hair is beyond me.'” – Conversation between Stewart and Ashley from We Are All Made of Molecules by Susin Nielsen, page 243-244

We Are All Made of Molecules by Susin Nielsen is published by Tundra Books, (2015).

The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen by Susin Nielsen

Posted by on Dec 4, 2014 in Book Reviews, British Columbia | 0 comments

The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. LarsenSummary: Starting over in Vancouver, British Columbia after a horrific tragedy in their family, Henry K. Larsen is using a journal to explore his feelings and try to adjust to his new normal. His mother is in Ontario trying to put herself back together, and living with his father in an apartment that used to be a crystal meth lab means the house is pretty dirty and they eat a lot of take out. But while they were driven out of Port Salish because of Henry’s brother Jesse’s actions, the people they meet in their new place are different. Henry and his father find themselves supported by their new community, and Henry finds himself with the space to work through his grief in an authentic way.

Number of Pages: 243

Age Range: 12-14

Review: Author Susin Nielsen is unflinchingly honest in her portrayal of Henry K. Larsen, a thirteen year-old boy dealing with life after the suicide death of his brother Jesse in which Jesse killed his bully, Scott, beforehand. Henry’s story has no easy answers, but offers instead a lovable, vibrant main character earnestly working through his grief over the loss of his brother and the dramatic changes in his life.

It sounds unbearably grim, but it’s not. The harsh reality of Jesse’s experience as witnessed by Henry is eased by Henry’s unique perspective. His observations of life and others are humourous and poignant. Nielsen brings about a delicate coming-of-age as Henry works through his feelings over all that has happened and begins to let people in again.

The good news is Henry and his father are surrounded by people who have also been hurt. Some have lost others, some know what it is like to be an outsider, and others have personal experience with bullying themselves. All are well-drawn characters in their own right. Across this shared pain, connections are forged – strong enough to support Henry and his feelings of grief, anger and sadness even when he lashes out.

It is simply a breath-taking read. Nielsen is so completely in the head of a thirteen year-old boy the story itself is seamless. Aspects like Henry talking in a robot voice when he is emotionally distressed and the whole sub-plot of getting to the wrestling match complete the book, and it is one of those stories I will keep re-visiting again and again.

Memorable Quotes:

“I’m thinking I might have to start using the back entrance to avoid the Vultures. As my mom says, ‘Certain people, if you give them an inch, they’ll take a mile.’


Karen and Mr. Atapattu are those people. Their loneliness is like a bad egg fart – you can smell it a mile away.


Dad and I, we have a different kind of loneliness. It’s the kind you feel, even when you’re with someone else, because you know something, or someone, is missing.


Other lonely people can’t fill the emptiness.


Other lonely people only remind you how alone you already are.


Other lonely people only make it worse.” – Henry from The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen by Susin Nielsen, page 34

“Now Dad and I are both in the living room, watching TV. I’m in my pj’s and Dad’s wearing the robe Mom made him a zillion Christmases ago. It’s made of a navy blue velour, with a patch on the chest that says ‘World’s Greatest Dad.’


It’s a strange TV landscape at 4:00 a.m. on a Saturday morning. Among the infomercials, we’ve found an old black-and-white movie called ‘Bringing up Baby.’ The baby is a tiger. Seriously. It stars some famous dead actors. Their lines are fast and funny, but I still feel a bit anxious that one of them might get mauled to death by the tiger at any moment. It doesn’t seem like that kind of movie, but sometimes you can be in for a rude surprise.” – Henry from The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen by Susin Nielsen, page 39

“It was like Jesse was one person when he was alive and another after he died. When he was alive, Jesse was the babyface. Scott was the heel. But the day Jesse took Dad’s rifle to school, they switched roles. Scott became the babyface and Jesse became the heel.


Oh, man. I suddenly get why Cecil seemed so pleased in our last session. I’d been talking about wrestling: he’d been talking about my brother.


One big glaring difference, Cecil.


On ‘Saturday Night Smash-Up,’ everyone comes out of it alive.” – Henry from The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen by Susin Nielsen, page 46

“We didn’t for ice cream. We just walked straight home. I remember that Jesse was really embarrassed. And I remember that I was embarrassed, too, because I suddenly knew with total certainty that my brother was not cool. My brother was the kid the other kids made fun of.


I think that was the day I stopped looking up to him. I think that was the day I started to feel a little bit ashamed of him.


It was hard to write those last two sentences.” – Henry from The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen by Susin Nielsen, pages 76-77

“What I like most about Farley is that he’s like a rubber ball. No matter how hard you throw him, he bounces right back.


What I hate most about Farley is that he’s like a rubber ball. No matter how hard you throw him, he bounces right back.” – Henry from The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen by Susin Nielsen, page 79

“And then, boom, like that, my sadness turned to furies because it dawned on me that every single time something GOOD happens to me, Jesse will be there, looming over my shoulder, like a big inescapable force of doom, for the rest of my life.” – Henry from The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen by Susin Nielsen, page 162

The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen by Susin Nielsen is published by Tundra Books, (2012).

Ravensong by Lee Maracle

Posted by on Dec 3, 2014 in Book Reviews, British Columbia | 2 comments

RavensongSummary: Growing up in the 1950s near Vancouver, Stacey lives in a Native community with her family but attends high school in town with the white teens. Her last semester and summer before leaving for university are eye-opening as a classmate of Stacey commits suicide and a ‘flu epidemic strikes Stacey’s community. She grows to learn the white community she is trying to be a part of has its’ own problems, including a complete lack of respect for their Native neighbours. Stacey can see how white culture is invading her community and changing things in a bad way, giving her a renewed appreciation for the way things are. Her plans to do something about it are noble, but unfortunately not realistic.

Number of Pages: 199

Age Range: 17-18

Review: In a heart-breaking, gut-wrenching tale, Lee Maracle explores the effects of European culture on a Native community in the 1950s.

Stacey is a seventeen year-old with a dream of becoming a teacher and returning to start a day school for her Native community. Though her relatives attended residential school, Stacey chooses to attend school in the local town. As the only Native in the school, Maracle pinpoints the many communication and culture differences Stacey experiences, but it isn’t until Polly, a fellow classmate, commits suicide that Stacey really begins looking at the messages she is getting from her environment.

And once she starts looking, what she finds can’t be unseen. When a ‘flu epidemic hits, it is up to Stacey and her mother to help others get through it. Doctors from town claim they are overworked and unable to help the Native community, so their losses are higher than expected. Stacey’s own father is one of the casualties, and watching her mother find love again with someone close to the family is hard.

Stacey’s awareness of the disparity between white and Native culture grows, and there is immense grief involved as she can see white culture and beliefs tainting their Native community. Change is coming, and although Stacey wants to be a part of that change in a way, she also knows not all change is good. By the end of the book Stacey is starting university with her eyes open, knowing exactly what she is giving up with the choices she is making.

Ravensong is a powerful, layered read that works as a teen/adult crossover and is an excellent choice for a Canadian English literature class.

Memorable Quotes:

“To all those women who fought the epidemic when this country was not concerned with our health.” – Dedication from Ravensong by Lee Maracle

“Death is strange. It begs change. It lurks about the heart, stubbornly straining memory. It conjures up images of whatever joy the deceased managed to bequeath the bereaved. When the body is finally laid to rest, the deceased’s truth has been stretched to an image of virtue invented by the mourners. Death conjures these memories between tears. The conversation of the mourners always manages to wend its way toward these invented virtues of the dead.” – from Ravensong by Lee Maracle, page 18

“Stacey took care to leave her heart out of her final examination of Polly’s death. Polly had perished under the dome of arrogant insecurity her people had erected for her. They set up morals no human could possibly follow, then established a judgement system based not on whether or not you actually lived within the moral code, but whether or not you could deceive people into thinking you lived by this code. ‘Discretion,’ they called it. In Dominic’s mind morality was irrelevant. What lived inside was a set of laws which were to be obeyed at all time regardless of the circumstances. His belief in their ways kept him on a trail of gentle social affection. He would not believe that anyone could consider that committing an indiscretion was worse than committing a crime. Lawlessness, over-indulgence and deception were just other words for thievery – only what you stole was the sacred right of others to choose based on clear knowledge. Deception robbed the hearts of others. Now Polly’s life lay stilled in some graveyard because she had dared to be indiscrete. They weren’t very likable people, Stacey decided.” – Stacey from Ravensong by Lee Maracle, page 64

“Under the shabby arguments about hospitals being fully and doctors already overworked lay an unspoken assumption: white folks were more deserving of medical care. There is a hierarchy to care. In some odd way Stacey could not figure out how this assumption was connected to their very view of the nature of their authority. It continued to baffle her. Something was not being said here.” – Stacey from Ravensong by Lee Maracle, page 69

“If Stacey had no idea how to take her father’s death, Dominic’s confused her more. After the double funeral she took herself over to her house. The village felt empty – oddly freed of an intangible hold Dominic had had on it. The freedom did not feel right; an augustness had died with him. Nora’s cynical sentiments grew large between the gaps created by Dominic’s absence. Both Stacey’s father and Dominic had had a kind of invisibility in life that became obvious only in death. Their presence, the hugeness of them, only presented itself in their absence.


In the house during the evening after the funeral Stacey realized how much her father had filled the home with surety. He had referred to everything as ‘Your mother’s’ . . . ‘your mother’s home,’ ‘your mother’s meat,’ ‘your mother’s children,’ but his presence owned every nook and cranny, filing it with an uncanny comfort. In his absence the house became large and empty, dark and cold. Her mother, usually raucous and cheeky, was now small, dangerously fragile, subdued and lacking in courage. Stacey feared she too would sicken and die.” – Stacey from Ravensong by Lee Maracle, page 84

“Stacey stopped herself from getting too close to sympathizing. Carol after all had done nothing to alleviate her countrymen’s ostracism. White people learn nothing from their stupid merry-go-round of pretentious and fake morality rooted in deception.” – Stacey from Ravensong by Lee Maracle, page 131

“The old snake had brought a piece of white town with him to the village. Stacey knew Shelly had been abused and discarded by a white man. It’s how they are, she thought. They don’t really like us. It was almost to be expected, but this man had been one of their own at the time. Now the old snake was just like them and he had influenced this young man to emulate him. Stacey decided he was dangerous. She couldn’t know then that some of the families were already changed. She couldn’t know that her own clan was the last of the families to cling to their ancient sense of family and that this was going to break down steadily as white town invaded their village. She had no idea how innocent she was. The departure of two of her women relatives was the beginning of a huge cultural shift that would wreak havoc in her village much later.” – from Ravensong by Lee Maracle, pages 149-150

“Words are sacred, once spoken they cannot be retrieved. Sometimes they fall out of the mouth in moments of thoughtlessness when the speaker focusses on images which don’t include the one spoken to, and burn holes in the lives of the listener.” – from Ravensong by Lee Maracle, page 167

“They could go everywhere all at once now; through books they could see the world and they felt the power of this new kind of vision.” – Momma and Madeline learn to read from Ravensong by Lee Maracle, page 176

Ravensong by Lee Maracle is published by Press Gang Publishers, (1993).

The Droughtlanders by Carrie Mac

Posted by on Dec 2, 2014 in Book Reviews, British Columbia | 0 comments

The DroughtlandersSummary: Twins Eli and Seth Maddox are raised in the Keylands, a wealthy post-apocalyptic community with the power to control the weather and a lot of secrets. Droughtlanders are those who live outside the walls of the Keylands, plagued by many sicknesses and long-term drought. After an incident involving the death of a Droughtlander circus performer, Eli starts asking questions and learns his mother Lisette is actually a former Droughtlander working to overthrow the Keylanders in a rebellion. When she dies and Eli knows his own father is responsible, he finds his way into the Droughtlands to seek out his mother’s family and get some answers. Though he approaches Seth to come with him, Seth threatens him and refuses because he is headed on his own path to becoming a Keyland guard. As the brothers’ paths cross after some time has passed, both are irrevocably changed by their experiences.

Number of Pages: 347

Age Range: 15-17

Review: A sharp contrast to her other books, The Droughlanders by Carrie Mac is a slowly developing story filled with secrets, two journeys and complex family relationships. In a word, it’s epic.

Two brothers have been raised the same but are quite different. Seth, the older twin, is a bully who dreams of going into the Keylander guard. Like his father he has a thirst for power, and is given the opportunity to exploit that power when he bribes his way up to being placed on patrol in the Droughtlands.

Eli, questioning reality after a horrible event, finds out his mother is working for what he believes is the enemy. But when he overhears his father making plans to blow up his mother’s place of work, her death after the bombing does not come as surprise. Left with no one to give him the answers he’s desperately seeking, he heads out to the Droughtlands himself to find her family.

Before Eli goes though, he makes the mistake of asking Seth to come along and tells Seth that their mother was actually a Droughtlander rebel. With his position in the guard so close to being achieved, Seth threatens Eli’s life and then becomes obsessed with finding him to kill him.

My favourite part is how Mac uses a futuristic world to address modern day struggles. Apathy due to addiction, homophobic attitudes justified by a belief system, and the entitlement of the wealthy to act without morals. It’s not the easiest read because it’s quite intense at times with stabbings, sickness, death, slaughtering, rape and drug addiction but Mac’s writing builds a whole world with two very divided peoples and all of the problems that come with one community taking advantage of another.

It’s a story with incredible plot twists and is clearly building to the next book, Retribution. Can’t wait to find out where Mac takes her series as the main characters are in completely different places at the end of the book than they are in the beginning.

Memorable Quotes:

“Lisette gripped his hand right. ‘You and your brother are so different. When you were little I treated you the same teaching you  compassion and empathy without your father knowing. I watched him make you hunt, and deny your friendships with the staff’s children, and teach you to be so cruel to the labour, and I hoped my teaching would at least end up in a balance of sorts. That my attention to the soul and the heart and the body would result in compassion and critical thinking and understanding and strength.'” – Lisette, Eli & Seth’s mother from The Droughtlanders by Carrie Mac, page 24

“It was different when it came right down to it. It was hard to want to kill the twin who you played with, fought with, and knew since conception, no matter how fraught the relationship, or how evil the twin.” –  Eli from The Droughtlanders by Carrie Mac, page 201

The Droughtlanders by Carrie Mac is published by Puffin Canada, (2006).