3.4 5
by John Marsden

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She lives in the best suburb. She goes to the finest school. Her family is wealthy and powerful. She has everything money can buy. So why are there reporters outside her house? And why is her father telling lies on television? And why is the Premier talking about them in State Parliament? Something is wrong. Something is terribly wrong. Riveting and compulsively


She lives in the best suburb. She goes to the finest school. Her family is wealthy and powerful. She has everything money can buy. So why are there reporters outside her house? And why is her father telling lies on television? And why is the Premier talking about them in State Parliament? Something is wrong. Something is terribly wrong. Riveting and compulsively readable, John Marsden's Checkers plunges us deep in the mind and world of a teenage girl whose life has spun completely out of control.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
This determinedly grim novel is less compelling than most of the Australian writer's previous books (Letters from the Inside), even though it shares their angry energy and capacity to shock. The focus splits between teenage patients in a psychiatric ward and the family crisis that brought the unnamed female narrator there. It is an uneasy split, despite the energetic prose of the girl's diary entries: "Life seems so fragile. You walk down the centre of the highway, with the big trucks rushing past. They make the air shake. They blow you off your line." Her fellow participants in group therapy include an obsessive-compulsive, a male anorexic and a girl who thinks she has an animal living in her head. However, the narrator describes their activities rather than interacts with them, so they don't seem fully realized. She claims a deep friendship with the anorexic boy, for example, but he figures only slightly in the stories she tells. And although the narrator eventually works up the courage to break her long silence in group, readers never learn what her diagnosis is--only what happened to her. A heavy dose of Australian politics and corporate-speak in connection with the subplot about the girl's father weigh down the story line, but the pervasive sadness of the narration will make this worthwhile for teenagers who find solace in reading about hard times. Ages 12-up. (Oct.)
VOYA - Gloria Grover
Warner (the protagonist's surname), a teenage girl, recounts the events that led her into a mental institution. It all begins the evening her father, a CEO in a large Australian financial corporation, gives her an unusually colored dog named Checkers. That night her father announces to his family that his company landed "the contract." Difficulties arise when the media and government investigate the contract; accusations and denials are made as to whether a government official passed inside information to the corporation before the contract was announced. No one is able to prove any of the accusations until a young reporter links Checkers to the Prime Minister's dog, charming Warner into declaring that a friend of her father's gave her father the dog. The following day, the newspapers run photographs of both Checkers and his twin-the Prime Minister's dog. In a rage after reading the newspaper, Warner's father pulls out a carving knife, goes to the backyard and stabs Checkers to death. Tension in the story slowly gathers momentum, making for a powerful ending when the reasons Warner is in the mental institution and her father's guilt are unveiled. Written in a narrative style, readers may be annoyed that Warner's first name is never revealed. Marsden unfolds an emotionally compelling story by moving back and forth between Warner's home life and her life at the institution. Some of the slang terms will throw off American readers, but a small glossary is included. The tension makes this an excellent title for book-talking. VOYA Codes: 4Q 3P J (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses, Will appeal with pushing, Junior High-defined as grades 7 to 9).
Children's Literature - Lois Rubin Gross
This is the book that Chelsea Clinton might write if she lived in Australia, was inclined to air the family's secrets, and was less stable than she appears to be. The unnamed teenaged narrator writes from the psychiatric ward where she is living. The reason she has been placed in treatment is, initially, ambiguous. Her peers in group therapy have labels to identify their problems: anorexia, manic depression, obsessive compulsive disorder. The narrator, however, seems to be suffering from a life of over-privilege and a high-profile father. Then, in a series of flashbacks we learn that it is her father's "celebrity" that has caused her breakdown. Her father has been at the center of a financial scandal that reaches as high as the Australian premier and she, quite by accident, is the person who broke the story. Has she been banished to a psychiatric hospital as punishment for her careless chatter, or has her emotionally distant father's anger caused her to crack and kill the family pet, her beloved dog, Checkers? Baby Boomer Americans will recognize the tenuous connection between political scandal and a dog named Checkers, but how many teenagers, either in the U.S. or "down under," will understand that a dog named Checkers was a footnote in 1950s history? The main character evolves nicely from a spoiled teen to a girl desperately trying to keep the pieces of her dysfunctional family from flying apart in the face of a media onslaught. A glossary of Australian slang is provided (and needed!) for this timely book that illustrated the impact of trickle-down wrongdoing on a photo-op family.
To quote KLIATT's Sept. 1998 review of the hardcover edition: An unnamed teenage girl tells about the financial and political scandal that brought down her father and led to her commitment to a psychiatric hospital. She fills us in on the other inhabitants of the adolescent ward as she looks back on the increasing media pressure that led to the crisis, and reminisces about her beloved dog Checkers, who inadvertently played a role in bringing it all to a head. The details of the scandal aren't as interesting as the girl's gradual revelation of what has brought her to the hospital, and her slow start at recovering from her trauma. The cover, a dramatic extreme close-up of a girl's face, may help attract an audience. This Australian novel includes at the beginning a glossary to aid American audiences with slang like "durry" for cigarette and "D & Ms" for deep and meaningful conversations. KLIATT Codes: JS—Recommended for junior and senior high school students. 1996, Random House/Dell/Laurel-Leaf, 122p, 18cm, $4.99. Ages 13 to 18. Reviewer: Paula Rohrlick; November 2000 (Vol. 34 No. 6)
School Library Journal
Gr 6-10-In this Australian import, a teen ponders the events that led to her current stay in a mental hospital. Laid out like long journal entries, the narrative shifts between descriptions of the slow-paced routine and assorted fellow patients in the psychiatric facility and the snowballing story of her father's involvement in a national scandal. The Warners, while well off, were never a happy family. The first real joy of the narrator's life came in the form of Checkers, a boisterous puppy that the girl's father brought home on the day he announced he had gotten a major casino contract. The contract was illegally obtained through some convoluted dealings with the Premier who publicly denied ever having met the business executive. After months of investigation, a reporter discovered, through information the narrator unwittingly supplied, that Checkers was actually a gift from the Premier. The father's guilt was confirmed, and he murdered the dog in a vengeful rage. The narrator holds herself personally responsible for the death of her pet, and apparently has had a breakdown. This book has several problems. The descriptions of the overall crisis, the father's business, and the government scandal are abstruse and often boring. The main character is not especially likable or well developed. How she actually ended up in the mental hospital is not fully explained, and why she has taken responsibility for Checkers's death is unclear. Also, the glossary of Australian terms is insufficient, rendering the book confusing for those who aren't familiar with the dialect.-July Siebecker, Hubbard Memorial Library, MA

"There are some things that once you've lost, you never get back. Innocence is one. Love is another. I guess childhood is a third. I've lost all of those, these last few months. I don't know how to replace them. I don't know if there is anything that can replace them."

The heroine of Checkers is a 15-year-old girl incarcerated in a mental institution. We don't know her name, nor do we immediately know why she has been institutionalized. What is made clear by her first-person narrative, however, is that she is an extremely intelligent, sensitive teenager who is not innately imbalanced, but who has been driven to her emotional undoing.

Hers was once an enviable world of money and privilege, gleaming with surface perfection. Her father, director of a large financial corporation, afforded his family the "right" house, two BMWs, designer clothes, and only the best of everything. Their lives were utterly controlled and polished, making the night her father brought home a non-pedigreed, rambunctious puppy all the more remarkable. It was the only time she could remember her father doing something "unpredictable and different." Making the puppy's arrival (whom she names Checkers because of his patchy coat) even more memorable, it coincides with her father's closing of an extremely lucrative, high-profile business deal.

Checkers unfolds slowly as the narrator shares alternately her current emotional struggles and her reflections on the events leading up to her incarceration. The other patients in her ward and therapy group are also young and not beyond hope: Among them are Daniel, an obsessive-compulsive; Esther, who believes a furry animal lives in her head; Emine, a who fears school; and Oliver, an anorectic. But although her peers discuss their problems and concerns freely in group sessions, she is unable to speak. However, her raw internal monologue details the unraveling of her once tautly constructed world.

When her father's business deal falls under investigation shortly after its completion, her world becomes murky. Reporters begin camping outside their home, her mother sleeps all day, and the kids at school behave strangely around her. Ultimately her father is implicated in an enormous insider-trading scandal that reaches to the highest level of the Australian government.

The only pure thing remaining in her life is Checkers, a dog who becomes not only a beloved pet but also a symbol of goodness in a world that lacks integrity at every turn. As the order and manicured beauty of her parents' world crumbles, the narrator marvels at the wonderfully simple attributes of her flawed canine: "But no, he was no genius, Checkers. What he had, and what I loved about him, was his happiness, his friendliness, his loyalty. He bounced through life, looking for another adventure, another game, another person to lick and fuss over. Those crazy black and white squares: you could see them a mile away, spreading chaos and confusion." She could never have anticipated that Checkers would also be the catalyst for the shocking climax of her father's professional scandal.

Often poignant and sometimes brutal, Checkers is unsparing in its exploration of adult corruption in the face of youthful hope and idealism. It is certain to leave an indelible impression on its readers.
Isabel Rifkin is a freelance writer living in New York City.

Product Details

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
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Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
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117 KB
Age Range:
12 Years

Meet the Author

John Marsden’s highly praised series concludes in this thrilling installment that will bring readers to the edge of their seats and keep them there until the last page is turned. John Marsden is one of Australia’s best-known writers for young adults. His work has received critical acclaim and has earned a cultlike following worldwide. The popular Tomorrow series has been translated into seven languages and has sold over one million copies in Australia alone.

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Checkers 3.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I read this book not understanding it at all. All the buisness stuff is really confusing. And I HATED the ending. It was such an awful book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
i read this book and i didnt stop at all. i read it till i was done. It was a great book to get your hands on. Go out and read it!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Is the book good for younger teens? Looks kind of weird, but might be good?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Never read it but it look good
Guest More than 1 year ago
it was really confusing untill the end, though it was way worth it, everything clicked at the end, ive read it once and i deff. want to read it again