Canadian Literature Review - Molly's Cue

Reviewed by: Rick Gooding

Pity adolescent fiction's fourteen-year-old protagonists, with their angsty self-consciousness and inability to recognize romantic attractions in themselves and others. Readers who are sixteen likely feel too sophisticated to sympathize with their childish concerns, while their eleven-year-old brothers and sisters may wonder what all the fuss is about. The authors of adolescent fiction have it hard, too, as they try to connect with young teens in prose that challenges without overwhelming. Shane Peacock, Linda Smith, and Alison Acheson have written novels featuring protagonists who are fourteen or fifteen, and they all strive to establish that elusive state where young readers both get what's going on and still care. In one sense, all three play it safe, steering clear of the kind of controversial territory that has occasionally landed such writers as Deborah Ellis in trouble, yet to varying degrees each of their novels risks alienating young readers by asking too much or too little.

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The novel that gauges its readers learst well is Molly's Cue. Alison Acheson's narrator, like Sherlock, is fourteen, but the novel seems to address much younger readers. As Molly Gumley begins grade nine, a chance discovery about her grandmother, whom she has always admired as an accomplished actress, precipitates a debilitating stage fright that threatens the acting career Molly has imagined for herself. The story centers on Molly's attempts at returning to the stage, and secondarily on her dealings with her uncle Early, an aging hippie who has yet to commit to a course of life, and Candace, Molly's moody, artistic friend whose mother is expecting a baby. There is mild romantic interest, but it is more peripheral than in the novels of Smith and Peacock. The plot is linear and uncomplicated, the style undemanding, and the chapters very short, typically subdivided and averaging only about eight pages. Molly's Cue may appeal to readers for whom high-school is a distant prospect, but anyone entering those doors for the first time would likely have long outgrown the text intellectually, if not emotionally. 

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