Darrah, angry that her mother’s preoccupation with her younger brother’s out-of-control epilepsy has caused her to miss an important audition, pulls the fire alarm in the hospital and then must face the consequences.
After pulling the alarm, while escaping down the stairs, Darrah accidentally knocks over elderly Mrs. Johnson, who breaks her leg. The consequences in the Canadian justice system are for her to face all the involved parties in a Restorative Justice circle; they then agree on an appropriate punishment. Darrah suffers from a bad attitude at the outset, showing little guilt and, initially, a lack of empathy. She’s sentenced to provide in-home assistance to Mrs. Johnson, a wise, nearly blind lady who’s determined to straighten the teen out, partly with cooking lessons that immediately strike a chord with Darrah. She quickly realizes that few know of Mrs. Johnson’s eyesight problems and worries over whether to protect her secret. Darrah makes a remarkably rapid turnaround in attitude, becoming devoted to her slightly cranky mentor and also getting swept up in a new friendship with the woman’s agreeable grandson. In addition to relying on the all-too-familiar transformation-under-tutelage-of-wise-elder trope, Walsh takes on more issues than she can effectively handle and never quite does justice to any of them, in spite of a few likable-enough characters.
Darrah goes from too-bad to too-good way too fast to be believable or especially satisfying. (Fiction. 11-14)