by Sharon Jennings
Second Story Press, 2009
$8.95, 152 pp, ages 10+
It would be very glamourous to be an orphan, or so thinks 11-year-old Lee Mets. Orphan status, she believes, would have the additional advantage of a certain kind of freedom: no one “owns” an orphan in the way Lee feels “owned” by her parents. Enter Cassandra Jovanovich, a real-life orphan who moves into Lee’s neighbourhood, and Lee’s perceptions start to shift. First, despite her red hair, Cassandra is not at all like the iconic orphan Anne of Green Gables. Second, she definitely does not want to talk about her dead parents. As friendship develops, Lee reveals her “sanctuary”—a hidden place to which she retreats when times are tough. Here Lee feels she is “home free,” but Cassandra’s demons pursue her. It is not until separation looms that the two girls discover the meaning of friendship, and Lee discovers the difference between being owned and belonging to someone. The story’s location in a socially conservative 1960s environment is not necessary to support the themes of loyalty and belonging, and might be more distracting then helpful for many young readers. The novel is, however, an excellent exploration of the meaning of friendship.
This review is from Canadian Teacher Magazine’s November 2009 issue.