Monday, November 18, 2013

Yellow Line by Sylvia Olsen


Where I come from, kids are divided into two groups. White kids on one side, Indians, or First Nations, on the other. Sides of the room, sides of the field, the smoking pit, the hallway, the washrooms; you name it. We're on one side and they're on the other. They live on one side of the Forks River bridge, and we live on the other side. They hang out in their village, and we hang out in ours.

 For generations separation and suspicion have made the decisions for the polarized town.  Sherry, a white teen, and Steve, a native boy from the reserve, start seeing each other. Vince, the narrator of the novel, feels slighted because he and Sherry used to be close friends and now he has to face his feelings of jealousy and racial outrage.  This High Interest/Low level book tackles several tough issues.  There is the racism on both sides of the line, a sexual assault (suggested and not graphic in the text), intense peer and social pressure, and the question of when to follow what adults and a lifetime of beliefs and when to follow your own instincts.  Intense and engaging, this short novel pulls the reader into the battles of this small town.  One of the things I like best about the Orca Sounding series is that each novel addresses serious social issues without being preachy or patronizing.  They also don't offer simple solutions.  Each story leaves a somewhat ambiguous ending where we know what the main character feels and is going to do, but without providing a neatly wrapped up ending.  Readers are left to contemplate how characters will deal with the events and how the reader themselves will react to the events.  These are great books for initiating conversations and exploring our own perceptions. 

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