Roxy by P J Reece

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Roxy by P J Reece

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Category: Teens
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: An engaging story set in Canada, Corfu and Kashmir which would be suitable for the more mature teenager.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Maybe
Pages: 192 Date: October 2009
Publisher: Tradewind
ISBN: 978-1896580012

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Maddie was at Aunt Gretchen's funeral when she got the phone call to tell her that her father was in a coma and likely to die. This might sound like a double whammy but Maddie's father had deserted her soon after her birth (during which her mother died) and she was brought up by Aunt Gretchen, who never missed an opportunity to point out that she was an unwanted burden.

The relationship with Gretchen had declined further when Maddie became a single parent and it's Maddie's child, Roxy – now a teenager – who leaves Canada for Corfu to be at her dying grandfather's bedside. There are a couple of problems though. When she arrives her grandfather is frail but very much alive and planning to remarry. Oh – and Roxy discovers that she's pregnant but she's broken up with the father and wouldn't want anything to do with him even if they hadn't split.

It's a good story – I was very keen to keep turning the pages to find out how things would work out and how the mysteries of Roxy and Maddie's lives would unravel. There's a great sense of place too – I swear I could smell the herb fields in Corfu and feel the night-time cold in Kashmir. Nope – I'm not going to explain how that comes into the story. I wasn't too keen on Roxy, but she's a sassy, feisty young woman and she might well be your glass of Retsina.

And that brings me to my doubts about this book. I know Roxy only tried the Retsina but she would have drunk it if she's liked it. Alcohol and pregnancy shouldn't mix, even in fiction and particularly not in teen fiction. The attitude to sex is casual too and I'd have liked a little more emphasis on the consequences. Finally (yes – I know I'm going on a bit) the end does not justify the means – there's a marriage there which is based on some untruths - and that's not ideal.

There's a cautious recommendation for the older teenager who already has the moral perspective under her belt and can see what not as it should be. For the younger or more impressionable I think I'd wait a while – it's not a story which will seem dated for the sake of waiting for the moment.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to the Bookbag.

If this book appeals to you then you might enjoy House of Secrets by Diane Harker or Saturday Girl by Helena Pielichaty.

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P J Reece said:


Was most grateful to see your review of my book "Roxy" up on your site. I was glad to see that the reviewer seemed to like the book, yet she would appear to have had some concerns about the subject matter. I've taken the liberty of addressing the issue briefly in a recent blog, and thought perhaps you'd like to check it out:

It would seem that the reviewer -- and I could see that she was sincere -- felt that my protagonist's decision to keep her child reflected some kind of moral degeneraton on her part. Most commentators on the book have rather seen her as acting courageously by responding according to her nature, instead of bowing to peer pressure -- she is a girl who has a strong mothering instinct, which is something most girls wouldn't admit to.

I guess I'm troubled by the notion that a real and not so uncommon teen problem cannot be dealt with in a variety of ways in teen fiction. Here's a relevent thought from a note by an English professor in Vancouver:

"If writers aren’t allowed to take chances, we won’t have literature. Can you imagine the political correctness police with their hands on the manuscripts of "Huckleberry Finn," "Catcher in The Rye" even, recently, Pullman’s "The Golden Compass" and its two siblings? They wouldn’t have been published... When novelist John Gardner said that contemporary writers should tackle the big subjects, the "moral" (his word) subjects in the manner of the 19th century novelists, he meant exactly the dilemna that Roxy is going through."

My own argument for the value of the Roxy solution concerns 'accepting our humanness'...and that's why I let the author of "Harold an d Maude" have the last word on my blog post.

Keep up the good work... and I wasn't expecting this to be posted on your site...but that would be up to you. I love that we can have this kind of 'discussion'.


PJ Reece

Sue said:

Of course we've put it up on the site - we love this sort of discussion too and we're always more than happy for people to take us to task about what we say.

Firstly, a general comment: as a reviewer I try to give a flavour of the book so that people can make a judgement about whether or not it would appeal to them. With books for children and young adults I try to give a hint of the issues covered. I try not to say so much about the plot that buying the book is superfluous. That doesn't do you or us any good.

Next - I really don't think in terms of moral degeneration. And - if you look at my review - you'll see that I never commented on Roxy keeping the baby. In fact I deliberately avoided mentioning whether or not she kept the baby as I thought that this might take something away from the book, take away a little of the suspense, if you like. I agree that she has strong motherly instincts and I think she'd make a great parent. My comment about the ending being based on something which is wrong refers to the circumstances in which a wedding was able to be brought about and I've altered my review to make this rather clearer.

I don't think that the subject of teen pregnancy is a bad subject for YA books - in fact I believe that the more informed people are, the better decisions they will make. I do believe strongly that alcohol and pregnancy should never mix. That's not a moral judgement though. My comment about casual sex is a moral judgement - I accept that - and it's based on the fact that I prefer teenagers to believe that sex is part of a loving and lasting relationship. I believe there's less pressure on young people in those circumstances.