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Bookends: Many things tilt this teenager’s world November 25, 2014

Posted by klondykewriter in Uncategorized.
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Bookends: Many things tilt this teenager’s world

By Dan Davidson

April 22, 2014

– 800 words –

 

TiltTilt

By

Groundwood Books

271 pages

$12.95

 

There comes a time in the life of a young person when the whole world seems to tilt. There may be many such times, in fact. For Stan Dart the first one was when his father, Ron, packed up and left with Kelly-Ann, abandoning Stan, Lily and their mother, Isabelle.

With Mom there has been a succession of failed relationships since then, and each of them has tilted Stan’s world a little. The current one, with Gary, seems to be working out, and he’s not at all sure how he feels about that.

It’s been five years since he has had to worry about a permanent other male presence, and he’s kind of got used to picking up the pieces of their lives that his mom seems to drop from time to time.

Not that he doesn’t love his mom. There’s a rather sweet conversation that they have about halfway into the book and no son who didn’t love his mother would have been able to stick around for the whole thing.

What’s been rocking Stan’s world the most lately is the new girl, Janine Igwash. She’s constantly on his mind and when she asks him to go to a dance with her, he’s totally flabbergasted. Even though his friends warn him the buzz is that she’s “tilted” (read – into girls) he can’t give up the idea of spending time with her.

It’s a really awkward relationship, on both their parts. Stan’s never been on a date, as such, and Janine has never actually been interested in a guy before, so they circle around each other quite uncertainly for much of the book, running towards and away from each other while they make up their minds.

In his less frantic moments, Stan is trying hard to make the school’s basketball team, and the proper ways to make different types of basketball shots become metaphors for all kinds of other activity as the story moves along.

A final big tilt comes Stan’s way when his birth father turns up with the half-brother he’s produced with Kelly-Ann. We’re not sure what’s happened here. Did she kick him out or did he just leave her? Do the garbled words coming from Feldon, Stan’s new half-brother, mean that Kelly-Ann is having an affair with someone else and that they’ve taken off to Montego Bay – or is all of this completely out to lunch?

What does Ron want? How does Stan feel about Feldon? How does Lilly feel about him? What scenes will develop when Gary and Ron are at the house at the same time?

As it turns out Gary seems to improve by comparison with Ron. In fact most of Stan’s residual good feelings about Ron pretty much melt away the night he finds his dad preparing to take off again with Feldon in order to avoid getting caught there by Kelly-Ann.

Stan talks him out of taking Feldon and watches as Ron “shuffled his old gray self in to the back of (the taxi) and said something to the driver. Bus station? Train station? Somewhere on the edge of the highway? Stan didn’t want to know.”

That seems to be the point where he becomes determined not to be the man he has seen his father become, and so he is rather distressed when he and Janine give in to teenage desire while he feels they ought to be looking after Feldon (who has fallen asleep in the downstairs closet).

When she says, “I’d love to see your room” it’s pretty much all over for Stan, and the next few pages are likely to get this book some sort of age rating, even though it’s all very poetic. Later, he’s terrified that he’s become a father, but it turns out she had this all pretty well planned for.

At its core, this is a book about relationships and desire. Some of the relationships work out and some don’t. It appears that some of the characters learn important lessons – and that some just blunder on heedlessly.

There’s lots of tension in this story and yet it’s quite funny in a number of ways. We spend it inside Stan’s head, and I’m not sure he’s an entirely reliable narrator, but he means well and he wants to get things right, so we like him and we cheer for him.

The story has several happy endings, and I don’t think I’m spoiling anything by telling you that, because they’re not exactly what you may be thinking they are.

Alan Cumyn is the current writer-in-residence at Berton House and was one of the four mentor authors at this week’s Young Authors’ Conference.

 

-30-

 

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