The Other Side
by Heather Camlot
Red Deer Press, 2020
ISBN 9780889956148 (pb)
$14.95, 232 pp, ages 9 – 14
This wonderful novel set in Prince Edward County, Ontario is a mystery, a coming of age story, and a war story which crossses decades and generations. Set in the present, Liam, who is 12, discovers a body on his grandfather’s property on the shore of Lake Ontario. Although the death is regarded as an accident by the authorities, Liam tries to piece together the circumstances of the teenage girl’s death which he believes to be a murder. While visiting his grandfather in palliative care at Sunnybrook Hospital, Liam learns of his grandfather’s service in the German army as a boy soldier at the end of World War II. Personal conflict mounts as Liam tries to reconcile his grandfather’s past with his own Jewish heritage. The missing items in the cottage garage serve as the final link between Liam’s grandfather and the brother he lost after the end of the war when Germany was divided between east and west. It is the discovery of these items which will help solve the mystery of the young woman’s death. The novel does not deliver a simplistic view of young people. The author has Liam suffer great mental anguish at the discovery of the body which seriously affects his ability to function in his daily life and on the soccer field where he is preparing to be scouted. This in itself demonstrates the author’s sophistication at creating “real” characters who suffer human problems.
Classroom Connections: The author’s Q & A at the end of this book gives great insight for the budding middle school writer. Using personal history, historical research, and keen observation of how 12-year-olds speak, Heather Camlot has provided a very complex novel which does not speak down to the teenage reader. The Other Side is a sophisticated story that can entice the young reader into further explorations of history. More importantly, a close reading will show that different viewpoints don’t have to conflict, but rather may enrich understanding and tolerance while creating a deeper picture of human events and relationships. While this novel can certainly be read by an individual student, a strong teacher-directed experience could provide lessons into the construction of fiction, the development of human compassion through “voice,” and an interest in personal and world histories.
Review by Kent Miller.
This review is featured is Canadian Teacher Magazine’s Winter 2021 issue.