At first, I wasn’t sure what to think of this novel. It’s set in Nanaimo, which I love. It’s written by an award-winning Canadian author, whom I’d never read before, which I also love. It’s quirky, smart, and funny, with well-drawn characters and a host of interesting art projects that I would never in a million years have thought up. It’s fun-loving YA. But increasingly, it’s sad and more than a little horrifying. The Pale family dynamic, everything about Normandy’s sister from start to finish, the truths they uncover at school, the truths they uncover within their friend group and within themselves… it gets pretty dark, man. And it wasn’t at all what I expected. So I was inclined to review this one as a “take it or leave it” read. Something that I enjoyed, but that I wouldn’t necessarily recommend. But then, as I was writing my first draft of this review, something dinged (thank you, undergrad degree).
I see what you did there, Juby. Your book (or Normandy’s creative nonfiction) reads the way a hidden truth is discovered. From light hearted fun and games (and slight parental neglect), it gradually devolves to “wait, what?”, then to “ohhhhhhh no”, and finally comes to a screeching halt when everything is revealed. It’s masterful writing, embellished by well-placed illustrations, and cleverly interrupted by entertaining, insightful, and informative footnotes. So, I’m upgrading it to a “take it” read, which I’m very happy to do, since I purchased it while book shopping with the author, who is a lovely person.
No. 13 on my challenge. “Susan Juby lives with her husband and their dog in Nanaimo, BC, Canada, the setting of many of her books.”