by Matt Beam
Puffin Canada, 2009
$14.00, 156 pp, ages 15+
Steven is a fifteen-year-old boy who is writing a letter to his unborn sister, whom he calls Sam. He tells Sam about “the connections or the causes and effects” of all the “big things” that are happening to him and how they “change everything.” Steven is very into science, particularly his own synapses, and especially the “everything-is-connected synapse.” He is also very confused about many things in his life, even to the point where he tells Sam it might be better if he is “not around” when she is born. Conversely, he thinks it would be terrible if he were not there.
This is Steven’s first year of high school. His mother, a single parent, is pregnant and her boyfriend has left. Steven is at odds with his mother at the moment. He is frustrated with her and loses his patience easily when it comes to anything revolving around her pregnancy. Hockey is something Steven loves and, as a goalie, he does very well at the school tryouts. Though Steven makes a couple of friends through hockey, and an incident with his hockey equipment leads to him being punched in the face by a skinhead, there is not really much to do with hockey in this novel. The fellow who rescues Steven from the skinhead is Byron, an eighteen-year-old, slightly over-the-edge existentialist who really fires up Steven’s synapses. Byron is dealing with his own demons, but he and Steven form a bond that is broken later by Byron’s attempted suicide and mental collapse.
Steven tries to find himself through several trials and (mostly) errors, like smoking, trying drugs, drinking too much, hanging out with the wrong crowd and chasing the wrong girl. He is not being true to himself, and only when he hits the bottom does he realize what is important: his mother, his sister, and getting the “right” girl.
This is a wonderful, coming-of-age novel that grabs your attention and does not let go. Steven and Byron are characters who make you laugh, give you cause to worry, and break your heart. All of the “connections” eventually lead to what is really important—the love found within a family. My recommendation is that this book be used with students 15+ (rather than age 12+ as suggested by the publisher) because of sexual content and mature language.
Review by Julia Rank.
This review is from Canadian Teacher Magazine’s Jan/Feb 2011 issue.