Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
CHILDREN'S BOOKS: Suicide horror novel set in Winnipeg misses the mark
Winnipegger Kevin Marc Fournier's young-adult novel The Green-eyed Queen of Suicide City (Great Plains, 200 pages, $15 paperback) is part horror fantasy and part social commentary.
Mourning the death by suicide on Halloween night of her beautiful and popular sister, Rose Lepine has allowed herself to freeze to death in the midst of a brutal Winnipeg winter.
She finds herself in a hellish region of rotting corpses, rivers of blood and a queen who cannibalizes the remains of her victims in order to release their souls.
In contrast to Rose's story is that of Point Douglas resident Natalie, her perky friend Abby, her pregnant mother Nora and her partner, Davey. While Natalie's family are poor, they are also resilient, and the birth of her baby sister is one of the bright moments of the book.
The two stories are told in alternating chapters, Rose's in the third person and Natalie's in the first person. And while Rose was a classmate of Natalie's older brother, the link between Rose's story and Natalie's is never clear.
Possibly, Fournier should have written two books and kept the stories separate. Unfortunately, his vision of suicide hell, while it might discourage potential suicides, is also likely to discourage prospective readers. For ages 13 and up.
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If you were 14, an aspiring actor, needed cash badly and were asked to impersonate a dead teenager, would you do it?
Why not, suggests Garry Blackwood, a Nova Scotia novelist and the author of The Imposter (Red Deer Press, 248 pages, $13 paperback).
Ryan Waite is in Toronto and desperate for a job. When he's told he should pretend to be the long-lost son of an elderly, ailing man, he agrees to travel to Halifax. Only the man isn't elderly, isn't ailing, and has a very suspicious wife.
Blackwood succeeds in making the plot plausible, and Ryan is likable and funny. As complications increase, we can't help pulling for this unfortunate hero.
Blackwood, whose roots are in the U.S., has mined Shakespeare for the inspiration of several previous novels. The Imposter is suitable for ages 12 and up.
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The Testament of Jessie Lamb by British author Jane Rogers (HarperCollins, 240 pages, $20 paperback) is a scarily possible science fiction novel set "just a month or two in the future."
International terrorists have distributed a virus that is killing millions of pregnant women, as it causes the body to recognize the fetus as an alien intruder and destroys the mother's body. With no live births, the human race is facing extinction.
Jessie Lamb is the 15-year-old daughter of a scientist working to find a cure for the virus. She learns that the one possibility of carrying a baby to a successful term is for teenaged girls to volunteer to be carriers of embryos stored before the virus was introduced. The carriers will not survive, but hopefully the babies will.
Jessie is faced with the ultimate sacrifice. Should she volunteer to become a carrier and hope to perpetuate the human race, even if it costs her own life? What if it means going against the wishes of her parents? Should she give up her own dreams of college and a career?
This is a memorable book that will cause many young women to wonder "what if?"
Winnipegger Helen Norrie is a former teacher-librarian. Her column appears on the third weekend of the month.
Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 18, 2012 J8
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