Out of Focus

( 5 )

Overview

In this novel by Margaret Buffie, 16-year-old Bernice Dodd feels lucky. Her mother's inheriting Black Spruce Lodge means no more roach-infested apartments or bullies in the hallways. No more avoiding the landlord or sneaking away in the middle of the night because the rent is overdue. But some things will probably never change. Bernie will still have to take care of her younger siblings. Her mother will keep disappearing on drinking binges and find yet another creep of a boyfriend. And Bernie's anger toward her ...
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Overview

In this novel by Margaret Buffie, 16-year-old Bernice Dodd feels lucky. Her mother's inheriting Black Spruce Lodge means no more roach-infested apartments or bullies in the hallways. No more avoiding the landlord or sneaking away in the middle of the night because the rent is overdue. But some things will probably never change. Bernie will still have to take care of her younger siblings. Her mother will keep disappearing on drinking binges and find yet another creep of a boyfriend. And Bernie's anger toward her mother will continue to grow. Could Black Spruce Lodge be the family's last chance to get their lives in focus? Will Bernie find some perspective -- on her emotions, on Jack, the boy next door, and on Tony, the goodlooking novelist across the lake? One thing is very clear, though: rage doesn't let go without a fight.
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Editorial Reviews

Winnipeg Free Press
A new book from (Buffie) always promises a good read ? and (Out of Focus) does not disappoint ? Buffie’s maturity as a writer is evidenced as she describes (character’s) conflicting feelings of rage and hope, betrayal and trust.
From the Publisher
Captivatingly written, ... it is heart-wrenchingly realistic yet hopeful in its portrayal of childhood needs, teenage angst, and adult struggles ? Teens surviving any kid of scars will love this book.

Buffie excels at creating credible characters and placing them in situations that allow them to grow and develop.

A new book from (Buffie) always promises a good read ? and (Out of Focus) does not disappoint ? Buffie’s maturity as a writer is evidenced as she describes (character’s) conflicting feelings of rage and hope, betrayal and trust.

Children's Literature - Wendy M. Smith-D'Arezzo
Bernie Dodd is sixteen, wise, and innocent in a world that she would love to control by looking through her camera and snapping only the happy pictures. The metaphor of photography proliferates throughout, but is not allowed to overshadow the story of a young girl finding herself while she is busy taking care of those who need her. Bernie is disgusted that her mother cannot kick her alcoholism. She comes up with a plan to get her mother out of the city, giving them all a chance to start a new life. She worries about her younger brother and sister, knowing that she cannot meet their needs but shouldering the burden of raising them because she cannot trust her mother. Her world begins to gradually change. Her mother begins to get her life under control, staying away from alcohol, paying more attention to Ally and Jojo, and attempting to finally be a real mother to Bernie. The emotions Bernie experiences when this happens are realistically portrayed, giving Bernie the personality of a genuine teen, no sugarcoating needed. Told through Bernie's focus and in her words, this is a touching, authentic coming-of-age story. The happy ending is plausible because the characters change gradually and convincingly. Bernie is one of those rare characters that I wanted to spend more time with when the book ended.
KLIATT
Out of Focus is an old, too-true sounding story about a teenager with extra burdens, looking after her younger siblings because their single mother is an irresponsible alcoholic. The motif that appears and reappears is that of photography, with interesting quotes at the start of each chapter. Bernice is an accomplished photographer who uses her camera to distance herself from the chaos of her life. When she finds out that a great-aunt she never met has died and left the family a lodge on a lake, she insists that her mother take them there to start a new life. The place is in ruins, but so are their lives; Bernice insists they work hard to fix the place up so they can live there, making a living by running a store for the summer visitors. This plan begins to work out, with the help of friendly neighbors who adored the woman who was their aunt. As the mother Celia gets stronger, and the little children find their own way, Bernice oddly gets more and more angry. Her fury drives her, but confuses her as well. Jack, the teenager next door who shares Bernice's knowledge of photography, teases her and obviously is attracted to her, but he has a hard time getting through her defenses. Family secrets are revealed, understanding begins to seep into their relationships, and readers are treated to a moving story about a remarkably strong teenager, Bernice, who has not known much happiness, but finally begins to enjoy life. Buffie gets it right. KLIATT Codes: JS--Recommended for junior and senior high school students. 2006, Kids Can Press, 239p., $16.95 and $6.95. Ages 12 to 18.
—Claire Rosser
School Library Journal
Gr 7-10-Amateur photographer Bernie, 16, tries desperately to keep life together for her two younger siblings despite their alcoholic single mother's string of broken promises, lost jobs, and lack of stable housing. When Celia goes on a bender and calls off her wedding to boring nice-guy Mario, it nearly breaks Bernie's spirit. Then she discovers a document that details her mother's inheritance of a run-down lodge on a lake. The woman had secretly put it up for sale, but Bernie threatens to call social services and have her siblings taken away if Celia refuses to move there. Mother and daughter work hard to make the place habitable, and the younger children begin to thrive. Neighbors help out, Celia stops drinking, and life seems to be improving despite many rough spots. But why can't Bernie lose her fear and begin to trust Celia, and why does the teen's anger threaten her relationships? Buffie excels at creating credible characters and placing them in situations that allow them to grow and develop.-Susan Riley, Mount Kisco Public Library, NY Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
When 16-year-old photographer Bernie Dodd discovers that her great-aunt Charlotte has left Black Spruce Lodge (in northwestern Ontario) to her single, alcoholic mother, she demands (with a threat to call Social Services) that the family leave their roach-infested apartment and open the lodge for business. It has an immediate affect on the family: Ally, Bernie's brother, relaxes his obsessive-compulsive tendencies and her mother not only remains sober, but resumes her role as caregiver from Bernie. So why is Bernie still so angry at her mother and attracted to the older, two-timing novelist rather than the nice boy next door? Analyzing her own photography, finding answers to Charlotte's mysterious life and realizing the similarities she shares with her mother help put Bernie's "out of focus" life back in perspective. Although the story sports many coincidences (e.g., the lodge just happens to have a dark room) and a rushed ending, it offers a realistic depiction of teenage emotions and the mother-daughter conflict. (Fiction. YA)
Canadian Children’s Book News
Captivatingly written, ... it is heart-wrenchingly realistic yet hopeful in its portrayal of childhood needs, teenage angst, and adult struggles ? Teens surviving any kid of scars will love this book.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781553379560
  • Publisher: Kids Can Press, Limited
  • Publication date: 9/28/2006
  • Pages: 240
  • Age range: 12 - 15 Years
  • Lexile: HL640L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.00 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Margaret Buffie is an award-winning author of young adult books. Her books include The Watcher and Angels Turn Their Backs. She lives in Winnipeg, Manitoba.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 5 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews
  • Posted June 29, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Reality that's happening all around the world...

    This is probably happening to so many other teenage girls nowadays that it's not even funny. This was a great reality book. It shows how people can make mistakes and learn from them. Recommend...

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 9, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Great Book

    This book is so true. The story line is great and many people could relate to it. The characters play the part well and really gives you a different perspective on certain people. Definately a good book!

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    Posted May 5, 2010

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