Standing in the school counsellor's office, Mike, the teen protagonist in Matt Hughes's short story "Bearing Up", notes wryly that "the visitor's chair was buried in books in which adults explained exactly what you had to do to be a successful teenager." The irony of his observation epitomizes the danger inherent in adults producing fiction for younger readers: that adult writers may have little of value to say to teens. Fortunately, this is not the case with Takes
, Thistledown Press's third anthology of short fiction for young adults.
Many of the anthology's authors speak to the young adult's need for acceptance. Davey, in Ed Yatscoff's story "Scarecrow", has moved so often he has no real friends, and he commits a theft in order to be accepted by Scot, Tony, and Aaron, "who know everyone and everything about my new town." Paul, in Marilyn Sciuk's "Undertow", attempts a dangerous water sport despite his athletic father's remark, "My son swam better as a fetus than he ever has since." Anne, in Megan K. Williams's "The Initiation", ridicules a classmate to keep the ruling clique from discovering the secret she harbours, and in Mary Razzell's "The Job", seventeen-year-old Brian is nearly killed trying to prove his worth to a crusty road foreman.
Other authors in the collection explore turning points in young adulthood. In Debbie Spring's "The Kayak", sixteen-year-old Teresa must endure the moment when an attractive young man discovers she is crippled: "I've seen it all before. Awkwardness. Forced conversation. A feeble excuse and a fast getaway." Binny, in Helen Mourre's "Things Happen", waves goodbye for the last time to the teacher he has inadvertently betrayed. In Margo McLoughlin's "Flying", Jessie and Wanda defy the groundwalkers, who "want us to give up flying so that we can learn how to be afraid." And Mike, in Matt Hughes's "Bearing Up", faces his private nightmare and discovers that "on the other side of scared is this other place where everything opens up."
And, of course, there are stories exploring social issues that shape the lives of young adults. In Bonnie Blake's "To Each His Song", Charlie befriends a Japanese exchange student who endures racial slurs and a physical assault by Half-head and his buddies. Nell, a victim of family violence in Beverley A. Brenna's "The Dragon Tamer", wears bandages over burned forearms and declares, "I'm never going home. Not ever."
Most of the stories in this anthology-notably, "Bearing Up", L. J. M. Wadsworth's "The Boy Who Saw", and Mansel Robinson's "Hockey Nights in Canada"-are skilfully written, offering strong characterizations and compelling situations that demonstrate an understanding of the audience for whom they are intended. However, Joanne Findon's "On the Road" and Kathy Stinson's "Babysitting Helen" fail to involve the reader to the same extent as the others and, perhaps, are better suited to a different type of collection.
In his foreword, the editor, R. P. MacIntyre, writes, "Young protagonist fiction should be like good rock and roll-by definition slightly outrageous and raw." There is, in fact, little of the outrageous in Takes because its authors concern themselves with themes and conflicts common to the genre. No, certainly not raw. But well-done. l
Don Aker lives in Middleton, N.S.