Thursday, August 17, 2006

Zee's Way by Kristin Butcher

Finally, my edits are showing up on blogger. So, as I was saying earlier, I finished Zee’s Way by Kristin Butcher. For those of you who don’t know, it’s part of a great series that Orca Book Publishers has done for reluctant teen readers. This is a fabulous series―well worth checking out, and Orca is a really good publisher. I should know, they published my first 6 books!

The thing is, it’s kind of awkward reviewing books by people you know, and I’ve known Kristin for quite a few years now; since she retired from teaching and moved to Victoria. I don’t see her much as she’s moved up island (island talk for anything north of The Malahat-a highish altitude pass just north of Victoria on Vancouver Island). Kristin is easy to review though, cuz she just keeps getting better. Zee’s Way isn’t her newest book, and it isn’t her edgiest. It is really good though. I think I like it so much because of Zee’s artistic bent. He doesn’t start out as a graffiti artist, but with the town’s new mall being anti-teen, graffiti becomes a way for him to express his anger and frustration. Not surprisingly, he gets caught. The mural he is coerced into painting to cover his earlier work ends up being a doorway for communication between the town merchants and Zee and his friends. I really liked the way the story is told from Zee’s perspective. I liked the way Zee feels about what he paints, even before he gets caught. I like how he gradually comes to see another way of looking at things, and I like the way his art leads the older generation to look beyond teen stereotypes. I think kids will like it too. Living by a high school, I often see people my age cross the street rather than walk by a group of teenagers hanging out in front of the school.

Butcher has a way of expressing opposite points of view through character, which is to say without preaching. She’s also a pro at snappy dialogue which she frequently uses to move a scene along. I suspect her ear for teen talk grew out of the years she spent teaching. Another thing that I like is that Zee’s home life difficulties are integrated into the story, but don’t take it over as it might have done in the hands of a less skilled author. Zee’s Way just might have you looking at graffiti with new eyes, and perhaps some of the kids who use graffiti to express themselves might look at things a little differently too. Now that’s a lot to accomplish in a little over 100 pages. But, that is what this book, and what Orca Soundings is all about. Short, readable, relevant teen novels that are hard to put down. Check out Zee’s Way, and some of Orca’s other titles at Orca Book Publishers.

So, it's only 11pm and I can get a few chapters of reading in before bed. Until next time. S.

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