BLACK CHUCK by Regan McDonell


Age Range: 14 - 18
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When a Canadian teen is found dead, his surviving friends must deal with the fallout.

Ojibwe and Québécois Réal Dufresne’s life is already complicated when his white best friend, Shaun, is found dead the morning after the two got into yet another fistfight. When he discovers the disemboweled body, Ré, despite not remembering much from the previous night, believes that he savagely tore apart and ate his friend. Evie Hawley, Shaun’s pregnant white girlfriend, isn’t handling things much better—the father of the baby she’s not ready for is dead, and she can’t help feeling relieved. Amid growing mistrust within their group of friends, the pair support (and fall for) each other through a storm of self-doubt. Despite dynamically complex characterization and storytelling, the unfortunate inclusion of spirit animals, traditional healing rituals framed as repellent, and visions used as plot devices present a distorted view of Ojibwe culture, particularly since the author seems only able to envision the complications of Ré's relationship with his Ojibwe heritage as fearful and gruesome. This represents a missed opportunity to fully explore the nuances of Ré's complex identity in favor of stereotyped shorthand and grisly spectacle, for example, as he repeatedly grapples with a dream-fueled fear of a violently cannibalistic inheritance from his great-uncle, Black Chuck, who ate his daughter after being possessed by the Windigo, an Ojibwe demon.

Brooding, absorbing, but not quite the cultural mirror it aspires to be. (Thriller. 14-18)

Pub Date: April 3rd, 2018
ISBN: 978-1-4598-1630-5
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: Orca
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15th, 2018


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