PAYBACK by James Heneghan


Age Range: 9 - 13
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Two deaths hold dominance over this tale narrated by Charley Callaghan. Soon after his Irish family immigrates to Vancouver, his beloved ma dies after a long bout with cancer. While Charley and younger sister Annie try to cope with their loss, Charley finds himself disconnected. Two bullies harass him constantly until new (and effeminate) student Benny becomes their target. Charley sees their cruelty, but does not intervene, too absorbed in his own troubles and secretly relieved that he is no longer the victim. Then Benny commits suicide, leaving a note referring to his constant tormentors. Charley, wracked with guilt, tries to confess his cowardice to Benny’s mom but cannot bring himself to follow through. Instead, he visits her each day, doing chores and providing company. Charley is ultimately able to rise to the occasion in a slightly improbable episode of family violence. The very Celtic inclusion of the ghost of Charley’s ma appearing and giving him advice is perhaps unnecessary, and the frequent Irish slang may confuse American readers. While melodramatic, the topics of bullying, cowardice and peer pressure unfortunately remain all too relevant. (Fiction. 9-13)

Pub Date: May 1st, 2007
ISBN: 978-0-88899-701-2
Page count: 168pp
Publisher: Groundwood
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1st, 2007


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