Welcome to my stop on the Canary Blog Tour, hosted by AToMR Tours! I’m very happy I got the chance to read this book, which I think will generate a lot of discussion. Keep reading for my review, and don’t forget to enter the giveaway at the end of this post! The publisher is giving away three copies of Canary plus a swag pack! The giveaway is international, and if you live in the U.S., your book will be signed by the author.
Author: Rachele Alpine
Release date: August 1, 2013
Publisher: Medallion Press
Age Group: Young Adult
Tour organized by: AToMR Tours
Staying quiet will destroy her, but speaking up will destroy everyone.
Kate Franklin’s life changes for the better when her dad lands a job at Beacon Prep, an elite private school with one of the best basketball teams in the state. She begins to date a player on the team and quickly gets caught up in a world of idolatry and entitlement, learning that there are perks to being an athlete.
But those perks also come with a price. Another player takes his power too far and Kate is assaulted at a party. Although she knows she should speak out, her dad’s vehemently against it and so, like a canary sent into a mine to test toxicity levels and protect miners, Kate alone breathes the poisonous secrets to protect her dad and the team. The world that Kate was once welcomed into is now her worst enemy, and she must decide whether to stay silent or expose the corruption, destroying her father’s career and bringing down a town’s heroes.
About the Author:
Rachele Alpine is a lover of sushi, fake mustaches, and Michael Jackson. One of her first jobs was at a library, but it didn’t last long, because all she did was hide in the third-floor stacks and read. Now she’s a little more careful about when and where she indulges her reading habit. By day she’s a high school English teacher, and by night she writes with the companionship of the world’s cutest dog, Radley, a big cup of coffee, and a full bag of gummy peaches. Rachele lives with her husband in Cleveland, Ohio, but dreams of moving back to Boston, the city she fell in love with while attending graduate school there.
In a word: A thought-provoking contemporary story about important issues, lots of family drama, characters that are damaged by loss and written with honest emotions, but ultimately make terrible decisions.
I ripped through Canary quickly. I honestly could not stop turning the pages! For someone (me) who is usually bored with contemporary novels, Canary was really good. I even loved that it was a story about a high school basketball team, and as a general rule I don’t like books about sports. Alpine has a lovely writing style that made Kate’s voice come alive, and she used it to great effect by interspersing Kate’s blog posts between the chapters, with a combination of poetry and diary entries that show her emotional turmoil. This story has a bit of everything: complicated family relationships, school bullies and peer pressure, sex and romance, and damaged characters that grow by the end of the story. I loved the realistic situations that Kate and her friends and family find themselves in and the fact that there were never any easy solutions to resolving these issues.
Kate’s mother died two years ago, and she and her brother Brett and their father are struggling to lead a normal life. Kate’s dad accepts a basketball coaching position at the prestigious prep school Beacon Prep, and Kate and Brett must now attend Beacon as well. At Beacon basketball is king, and if you’re not on the team or cheering them on during practices and games, you aren’t part of the “in” crowd. Kate takes to life at Beacon right away, snagging a team member as a boyfriend and finding herself part of an elite group of basketball players and their girlfriends.
But when things get out of control at a party one night, Kate realizes she must rely on herself to set things right, as well as bring her fractured family back together again.
Alpine sets up a very believable plot showing how school athletes are treated differently and seem to be able to get away with just about anything. When Kate steps into her new life as a student at Beacon and a girlfriend of one of the players, she embraces it wholeheartedly. But she does what many teens her age tend to do when her friends start behaving badly: she goes along with it even if she knows it’s wrong. There’s all kinds of peer pressure in this story: pressure to drink, bully the outsiders, and have sex, all of which I thought the author handled very realistically.
What was harder for me to swallow were the decisions some of the characters make throughout the book. And even though I thought the characters were authentic and the types of people you would most likely see in a high school setting, I spent a great deal of time ranting at them! Kate in particular was unable to stand up for herself, and it isn’t until the end that she figures out how to do this. She falls into the trap of so many clichéd teen characters: she wants to be popular and have the hot boyfriend, but when her actions begin to hurt people around her, she crumbles and doesn’t do the right thing. I wanted her to be strong, especially when it came to the sexual assault part of the story.
Likewise, Kate’s father bothered me. True, he’s still grieving for his wife, and he’s thrown himself into his job to escape the pain of dealing with his two children, who are a daily reminder of what he has lost. But he’s completely distanced himself from Kate and Brett, and when they both need him the most, for different reasons, he turns to his basketball team and coaching job to avoid having to face some terrible things that are happening.
A couple of characters did do the right things and I loved them for it. Julia, a quiet girl at school who is constantly teased by the popular girls; and Kate’s brother Brett, a senior who knows what he wants to do with his life and isn’t going to let anyone stand in his way.
But even as I was screaming at Kate and her father to make different decisions, I loved the moments when Kate remembers the times she spent with her mother. Kate does laps in their pool every night as a way of keeping her mother’s memory alive, and she reflects on a couple of very poignant memories before her mother died involving the pool. Kate also keeps a private blog, and blog entries precede each chapter. Some of them are lovely and heartbreaking poems, and each one acts as a diary entry that tells the story of Kate’s inner turmoil as the events of the story unfold.
Eventually Kate realizes that she must step up and make some unpopular decisions, and from this point on the story became a truly satisfying read. You may not like everything that these characters do, but they do end up in the right place at the end.
Many thanks to the publisher for supplying a review copy.
And now for the giveaway! Click the Rafflecopter button below to enter to win one of three copies of Canary or a swag pack!
And please click here to see a list of the other blog tour stops. Big thanks to AToMR Tours for organizing the Canary Blog Tour!