Saturday, November 29, 2008

The Girl in the Backseat by Norma Charles

The Girl in the Backseat

In this fast-paced, on the road, YA novel, Norma Charles once again manages to include provocative social issues in an adventure story that will appeal to children from age ten and up.

The novel opens with Toby, a young girl in a Bountiful-style community, being caught secretly reading at night. The community leaders decide that she must be married at once to "the prophet," an older man. Hearing of the plan, Toby decides to escape to Winnipeg where she has a sympathetic aunt. Fortunately, at this moment she meets Jacob and Minerva Armstrong and learns they are on their way to Winnipeg in the family Mini. During the night, she steals away and hides herself in the backseat of the Mini.

Jacob and Minerva have their own set of problems, since they are black and their Caribbean mother has recently remarried, this time to a penny-pinching Englishman who has two children of his own, and who seems wholly alien to the siblings. When the two Armstrong children discover Toby hiding in the backseat, she pleads with them not to tell their parents, since they will surely call the police. As the trio make their way across the country to Winnipeg, all sorts of problems arise as Jacob and Minerva learn more about Toby’s plight and her life in the religious community.

My Thoughts

Claimed from Mini Book Expo. I always enjoy reading books that take place in Canada and this book is no exception. I haven't travelled through the western provinces though so I eagerly lapped up the descriptions of the route travelled by the family. I am reminded of the young adult genre of the book when the main story of polygamy and young girls being married off to old men is 'glossed' over. The subject is a distasteful one and aside from Toby's brief explanation of her frantic flight from her fate of being sent to Texas to marry a prophet of their faith...the details are hazy. She is running away to join an aunt of hers who had also escaped her life of drudgery and servitude and had run away to Winnipeg. What is less believable about this story though is how Toby has managed to keep her heretical thoughts and beliefs leading up to her escape.... to the age that she is now. I would assume that most young girls growing up in this environment would be thoroughly indoctrinated by the age of 14 and would willingly fall in line with the community's expectations. The book flows along well though and the characters are appealing and likable. 3 out of 5 stars

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