YA Books a “Mixed Bag”

  • Lesley McKnight (Author)
    Vancouver Kids. Brindle & Glass (purchase at Amazon.ca)
  • Eleanor Catton (Author)
    The Rehearsal. McClelland & Stewart Ltd. (purchase at Amazon.ca)
  • Kim Moritsugu (Author)
    And Everything Nice. Raven Books (purchase at Amazon.ca)

There are good books for kid, great books, and mediocre to poor books, as is true of every genre. The good and great books are by far the exception. However, there is a new kind of book, the very twenty-first century, self-consciously clever book. The three books reviewed here cover the spectrum of good, poor, and clever.

One of the problems with books in a publisher’s series is that there is an automatic prejudice that the book will be mediocre at best. This is not the case with the Vancouver Kids, by Lesley McKnight, part of the Courageous Kids series put out by Brindle & Glass. Each chapter of this book tells the story of a different child or young person, starting with a pre-contact First Nations story and going through to a story that takes place in 2010. All are set in what is now Vancouver, although some of the early ones are barely in the city as we know it. Each story tells about the life and experiences of a child to whom something extraordinary has happened, or whose name has gone down in history for assorted reasons. The book is well written and engaging, and is a great way to get young readers interested in history, especially if they live in Vancouver or know it. The chapters are short, so they can be read as individual units. However, each one is intriguing and holds the reader’s attention. This is one book not to be missed, by the history buff and the “I don’t like history” reader alike.

Eleanor Catton’s The Rehearsal has won at least two awards and has been much acclaimed as clever, funny, “smart, playful,” and “perfectly-crafted” by different critics. It is a story set in a community after a sex scandal at a local high school. It features the local saxophone teacher, who seems to teach most of the girls from the school who are most affected by the scandal. The book tells the story of the various young students’ reactions to the scandal through chapters, or sections of chapters, devoted to each of the students, and the saxophone teacher, in turn.

The Rehearsal is, indeed, clever and witty. It is also highly self-conscious in style, and very confusing at times as the chapter sections switch from one person to another without always giving information on who is now speaking. The book is written well but lacks sincerity. This is a book that will appeal greatly to some tastes and not at all to others.

Kim Moritsugu’s And Everything Nice is simply a poor book. Part of the “Rapid Reads” series from Orca, it is simplistic, shallow, and banal. The main character Stephanie is unlikable, with attitude a mile high, and therefore it is thoroughly unbelievable when she becomes the confidant of a local television personality who then, of all things (gasp!) loses her notebook. The search for the stolen notebook and the rather obvious search for the blackmailing thief through deduction and then entrapment is predictable and uninteresting. Orca usually publishes much better material than this and Moritsugu is, apparently, a good writer, having been nominated for an award for another book. This book simply fails to deliver on any level.

Canada has a great reputation for its children’s books. Vancouver Kids certainly lives up to that reputation, while The Rehearsal is very much a matter of taste and has, obviously, been very much to the taste of award-granters. But there is no excuse for books of the calibre of And Everything Nice being published when good writers struggle to get published all the time. However, two out of three is not so bad, after all.

here are good books for kid, great books, and mediocre to poor books, as is true of every genre. The good and great books are by far the exception. However, there is a new kind of book, the very twenty-first century, self-consciously clever book. The three books reviewed here cover the spectrum of good, poor, and clever.

One of the problems with books in a publisher’s series is that there is an automatic prejudice that the book will be mediocre at best. This is not the case with the Vancouver Kids, by Lesley McKnight, part of the Courageous Kids series put out by Brindle

There are good books for kid, great books, and mediocre to poor books, as is true of every genre. The good and great books are by far the exception. However, there is a new kind of book, the very twenty-first century, self-consciously clever book. The three books reviewed here cover the spectrum of good, poor, and clever.

One of the problems with books in a publisher’s series is that there is an automatic prejudice that the book will be mediocre at best. This is not the case with the Vancouver Kids, by Lesley McKnight, part of the Courageous Kids series put out by Brindle & Glass. Each chapter of this book tells the story of a different child or young person, starting with a pre-contact First Nations story and going through to a story that takes place in 2010. All are set in what is now Vancouver, although some of the early ones are barely in the city as we know it. Each story tells about the life and experiences of a child to whom something extraordinary has happened, or whose name has gone down in history for assorted reasons. The book is well written and engaging, and is a great way to get young readers interested in history, especially if they live in Vancouver or know it. The chapters are short, so they can be read as individual units. However, each one is intriguing and holds the reader’s attention. This is one book not to be missed, by the history buff and the “I don’t like history” reader alike.

Eleanor Catton’s The Rehearsal has won at least two awards and has been much acclaimed as clever, funny, “smart, playful,” and “perfectly-crafted” by different critics. It is a story set in a community after a sex scandal at a local high school. It features the local saxophone teacher, who seems to teach most of the girls from the school who are most affected by the scandal. The book tells the story of the various young students’ reactions to the scandal through chapters, or sections of chapters, devoted to each of the students, and the saxophone teacher, in turn.

The Rehearsal is, indeed, clever and witty. It is also highly self-conscious in style, and very confusing at times as the chapter sections switch from one person to another without always giving information on who is now speaking. The book is written well but lacks sincerity. This is a book that will appeal greatly to some tastes and not at all to others.

Kim Moritsugu’s And Everything Nice is simply a poor book. Part of the “Rapid Reads” series from Orca, it is simplistic, shallow, and banal. The main character Stephanie is unlikable, with attitude a mile high, and therefore it is thoroughly unbelievable when she becomes the confidant of a local television personality who then, of all things (gasp!) loses her notebook. The search for the stolen notebook and the rather obvious search for the blackmailing thief through deduction and then entrapment is predictable and uninteresting. Orca usually publishes much better material than this and Moritsugu is, apparently, a good writer, having been nominated for an award for another book. This book simply fails to deliver on any level.

Canada has a great reputation for its children’s books. Vancouver Kids certainly lives up to that reputation, while The Rehearsal is very much a matter of taste and has, obviously, been very much to the taste of award-granters. But there is no excuse for books of the calibre of And Everything Nice being published when good writers struggle to get published all the time. However, two out of three is not so bad, after all.

& Glass. Each chapter of this book tells the story of a different child or young person, starting with a pre-contact First Nations story and going through to a story that takes place in 2010. All are set in what is now Vancouver, although some of the early ones are barely in the city as we know it. Each story tells about the life and experiences of a child to whom something extraordinary has happened, or whose name has gone down in history for assorted reasons. The book is well written and engaging, and is a great way to get young readers interested in history, especially if they live in Vancouver or know it. The chapters are short, so they can be read as individual units. However, each one is intriguing and holds the reader’s attention. This is one book not to be missed, by the history buff and the “I don’t like history” reader alike.

Eleanor Catton’s The Rehearsal has won at least two awards and has been much acclaimed as clever, funny, “smart, playful,” and “perfectly-crafted” by different critics. It is a story set in a community after a sex scandal at a local high school. It features the local saxophone teacher, who seems to teach most of the girls from the school who are most affected by the scandal. The book tells the story of the various young students’ reactions to the scandal through chapters, or sections of chapters, devoted to each of the students, and the saxophone teacher, in turn.

The Rehearsal is, indeed, clever and witty. It is also highly self-conscious in style, and very confusing at times as the chapter sections switch from one person to another without always giving information on who is now speaking. The book is written well but lacks sincerity. This is a book that will appeal greatly to some tastes and not at all to others.

Kim Moritsugu’s And Everything Nice is simply a poor book. Part of the “Rapid Reads” series from Orca, it is simplistic, shallow, and banal. The main character Stephanie is unlikable, with attitude a mile high, and therefore it is thoroughly unbelievable when she becomes the confidant of a local television personality who then, of all things (gasp!) loses her notebook. The search for the stolen notebook and the rather obvious search for the blackmailing thief through deduction and then entrapment is predictable and uninteresting. Orca usually publishes much better material than this and Moritsugu is, apparently, a good writer, having been nominated for an award for another book. This book simply fails to deliver on any level.

Canada has a great reputation for its children’s books. Vancouver Kids certainly lives up to that reputation, while The Rehearsal is very much a matter of taste and has, obviously, been very much to the taste of award-granters. But there is no excuse for books of the calibre of And Everything Nice being published when good writers struggle to get published all the time. However, two out of three is not so bad, after all.



This review “YA Books a “Mixed Bag”” originally appeared in Canadian Literature 214 (Autumn 2012): 146-47.

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