Sunday, June 30, 2024

Weekend Review: Stitches


Stitches / Glen Huser
TO: Groundwood Books, c2003.
200 p.

I picked up this short YA novel from my library recently -- I mean, just look at the cover! How could I not want to read this one? And I liked it, but do have a few caveats to that opinion.

The story follows Travis and his best friend Chantelle, as they move from fifth grade to junior high. Travis is different; he loves making puppets and wants to grow up to be a professional puppeteer. Chantelle has many physical disabilities and between them they are the outsider kids in their school. Travis has high hopes for changes in junior high, but while they do have supportive home ec and English teachers, who both encourage Travis' interest in drama and puppets, there is also more homophobic bullying from a group of boys he's known for a long time. But their teachers set them a challenge to present A Midsummer Night's Dream as a puppet show as their final project, and this keeps them going. 

The action in the story is mainly centred around the homophobic violence, which is never clearly resolved in the end. Travis' home life is rough, with a mother who's rarely around - he lives with his aunt and uncle (and the uncle is a mean loud mouth). He doesn't have anyone to confide in or to stand with him at home. Chantelle has older brothers who are rough types but at least support her and by extension, Travis as well, and they come in strongly at the end. 

There is lots of description of Travis and Chantelle sourcing fabric for their puppets at the thrift store, and making things like bags, puppet stages, and more. But I thought from the cover and description that there might be a bit more focus on that part of the story. 

The narrative tone is also a bit confusing. It doesn't feel so much like a young adult living the story, but an adult looking back at the events and telling them in retrospect. And the timing is a bit off; sometimes from one paragraph to the next, you are in the next school year without realizing it at first. I think some spacing/breaks in the typesetting could have helped with the transitions. 

I did like this one. It's set in rural Alberta and has some authenticity there. But I did feel a bit overwhelmed by everything being so dismal for Travis, from home to school, with so many aggressive characters and anger everywhere. I was relieved by the ending, with new hopes coming for Travis as he moves to the city to an arts-based high school. But I also felt that this novel, with important themes, could have been better.  

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