No wonder True Confessions of a Heartless Girl won the 2002 Governor General's Award for children's literature. Author Martha Brooks, celebrated for edgy young adult fiction that digs deep--including Bone Dance and Being with Henry--charts the waterways of the human spirit in this superb novel, which deftly walks the tightrope between fiction for older teens and adults.
Seventeen-year-old Norene Stall blows into the little town of Pembina Lake in southwestern Manitoba like a bad wind on the tail of a fierce summer storm and transforms the lives of those who try to take her under their wings. Norene is on the run after stealing her boyfriend's truck and a whack of cash, along with his heart. And she's pregnant to boot. Fiercely independent, stubborn, and probably the cause of more trouble than she's worth, she nonetheless worms herself into the affections of Lynda, the harried owner of the local café, and her five-year-old son, Seth, who she's raising on her own; 76-year-old Dolores, the oldest First Nations waitress in Manitoba, who has her finger on the pulse of everything that's happening in town but who can't quite get her own life in order; and Del a bachelor farmer and sometime poet who's deeply in love with Linda but afraid to do anything about it. True Confessions is a novel full of startlingly poignant insights into the rich inner lives of ordinary, yet always extraordinary, people. --Jeffrey Canton
Grade 9 Up-At 17, Noreen has led an unhappy life, overloaded with conflict. One stormy night, she drives off in her most recent boyfriend's truck and finds her way to a rundown caf in a small Canadian town. It is operated by a sad and impoverished ex-schoolteacher who is raising her young son, Seth, alone. Noreen's talent for trouble, fed by the fires of her careless bravado, soon surface as she endangers the child's dog by feeding it a chicken bone, and moves on to set a real fire in the bungalow she's been offered as a temporary living space. Flashbacks to Noreen's past reveal her rage at her awful parents, whom she hasn't lived with for years, and her depression and carelessness while living with her boyfriend Wesley. As Brooks knows how to show so well, troubled teens are not the only characters with problems. The adults Noreen encounters in this small town have nightmares of their own, reaching back to times long before she blew into town, and little Seth is truly at the mercy of the emotional storm centered all around him. Although Noreen realizes she is pregnant, and loses the baby within the very short time span of this novel, this is not a "pregnant girl problem story." Instead, it is a clear-eyed and clarifying look at the power of community, and the relative inadequacies of any one individual to weather the storms of life alone.
Francisca Goldsmith, Berkeley Public Library, CA
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.