Smoke and Mirrors

Smoke and Mirrors

by Lesley Choyce
     
 

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Short-listed for the 2005 CLA Young Adult Canadian Book Award

Sixteen-year-old Simon has always been considered odd. Three years ago, a skateboarding accident caused some minor brain damage and made him a little stranger. His career-driven parents mostly leave him alone, and he spends much of his time living in his imagination. When Andrea, whom no one

Overview

Short-listed for the 2005 CLA Young Adult Canadian Book Award

Sixteen-year-old Simon has always been considered odd. Three years ago, a skateboarding accident caused some minor brain damage and made him a little stranger. His career-driven parents mostly leave him alone, and he spends much of his time living in his imagination. When Andrea, whom no one else can see, appears to Simon in class, he is fascinated by her and strikes up a friendship, even though he knows she may be pure hallucination - he's had imaginary friends before. Andrea says she is there to "help" him, but before the story ends, Simon discovers that it is he who needs to help Andrea, not the other way around.

Editorial Reviews

The Chronicle Herald - Bruce Erskine
Smoke and Mirrors ... provides readers with an empathetic, often funny and yet serious glimpse into the doors to other dimensions ... whose possibilities continue to fascinate many.

From the Publisher
Review by Ruth Latta. **** /4 The mind is a kind of immense dark castle with many, many rooms where most of them remain locked... The skateboard near-death head injury had supposedly severed some of the connective tissue between the left hemisphere and right hemisphere of my brain... The doctors all agreed I could not have my two hemispheres stitched back together. There was no quick fix, no easy repair. So says Simon, the 16-year-old protagonist and first person narrator of Smoke and Mirrors, as he discusses the accident that left holes in his short term memory. But Simon, though brilliant, was always a little odd because his mother, when pregnant, mistakenly took two conflicting prescriptions from two different doctors. Perpetually on the fringes, friendless since his friend Ozzie moved to the seashore, Simon lives in his imagination and his reading on metaphysical subjects. Then, in history class, a new girl named Andrea whispers to Simon exactly what the teacher says two minutes later. She can read minds. When Simon wonders aloud to her if he is having some kind of "mental episode" because he's so stressed about his "freaking life," Andrea says that she has come to help him. Is she an angel? A figment of his imagination? A ghost? The supernatural/paranormal, once confined to genre works, is becoming a standard element in film, television drama and mainstream fiction. Author Lesley Choyce brings together a smorgasbord of the unusual, including crop circles, witchcraft in Macbeth, levitation, out-of-body experiences, and the Zen experience of satori (a moment of transcendence, awe and well-being). Because of Simon's interest in the unexplained, these references are plausible and convincing, suggesting to the reader that, to paraphrase Hamlet, there are more things in heaven and earth that are dreamed of in our philosophy. Thanks to Andrea's friendship, Simon is better able to cope with his ambitious parents' quarrels. Andrea "tweaks" the mind of a girl Simon likes to make her ask him for help with a term paper on the Druids. But Andrea flatly refuses to discuss her past. Her sudden appearances and fade-outs jar Simon, who then consults Lydia, the town psychic. She advises him to worry less about what Andrea is and to stay focused on "who" she is. In hospital, Simon's consciousness moved to a heavenly world of safety and happiness that involved a beach. One of his unfulfilled hopes is that his dad will take him to see his friend, Ozzie, at the ocean. Two-thirds of the way through the novel, Simon learns something devastating about Ozzie. Still reeling from that shock, he comes upon an old newspaper article about a girl from a neighboring community who is a coma and on life support. Drawn to the article, he investigates and discovers that the girl is Andrea. Author Choyce has written an underdog story with a twist. The Cinder-fella must rescue the fairy godmother. Andrea's spirit leaves her sleeping body to come to Simon one last time. She tells him she is "leaving." Encouraged by Lydia, Simon visits the hospital, talks to her parents, seizes the comatose girl by the wrists and offers to go with her. In doing so, he brings her out of her coma. His reward: a restored Andrea who remembers nothing about him when he visits her at her school. After wakening the sleeping beauty, Simon feels "more normal," and yet the loss of his former dreamy state, attuned to a different drum, is a "kind of death"-a permanent locking of many of those closed rooms in the dark castle of the mind. The ending, involving a beach and a reunion, is happy, yet haunting. Choyce, former publisher of Pottersfield Press and successful author, has skillfully written a spiritual work. This reader is still brooding over the ending and wondering about the dedication. Highly Recommended. Ruth Latta of Ottawa, ON, is a teacher/writer/editor. Her mystery novel, Tea With Delilah, was published in November 2004 by Baico Publishing of Gatineau, PQ. -CM Online, February 18, 2005
VOYA
Who, or what, is haunting Simon? Is the sudden appearance of the lovely Andrea a figment of his addled imagination, a side effect of minor brain damage suffered from a skateboarding incident, or the result of his obsession with topics located in the 001.9 and 133 sections of the library? The apparition claims she is "here to help him" but being seen talking to thin air is not the panacea for Simon's lack of social life. Against a supernatural backdrop are some very ordinary (and slightly stereotypical) teen problems-the workaholic parents who do not seem invested in their only son and a love interest who does not know he exists. Details such as Simon's keen desire to try surfing and characters like zany but kindhearted Lydia, a pot-smoking medium who is "between spirit guides," balance out the plastic parents and unrequited love. Simon's extraordinary inner monologue that reflects on the Druids, witchcraft, and what a love child between Queen Elizabeth and a former U.S. president would look like are authentic. Choyce weaves a mesmerizing tale of the paranormal kind as Simon determines exactly why he has been befriended by a girl that only he can see. The author's choice that readers receive all information through the filter of Simon's simplicity is an excellent one; the reader must closely examine what is real and what is illusion. Booktalk this one to fans of M. Night Shyamalan or those who love surprise twists. VOYA CODES: 4Q 3P M J S (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; Will appeal with pushing; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12). 2004, Boardwalk/Dundurn, 218p., pb. Ages 11 to 18.
—Beth Gallaway

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781550025347
Publisher:
Dundurn Press
Publication date:
11/01/2004
Pages:
200
Product dimensions:
5.25(w) x 7.25(h) x 0.50(d)
Age Range:
12 - 15 Years

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
"Smoke and Mirrors ... provides readers with an empathetic, often funny and yet serious glimpse into the doors to other dimensions ... whose possibilities continue to fascinate many."

Review by Ruth Latta. **** /4 The mind is a kind of immense dark castle with many, many rooms where most of them remain locked... The skateboard near-death head injury had supposedly severed some of the connective tissue between the left hemisphere and right hemisphere of my brain... The doctors all agreed I could not have my two hemispheres stitched back together. There was no quick fix, no easy repair. So says Simon, the 16-year-old protagonist and first person narrator of Smoke and Mirrors, as he discusses the accident that left holes in his short term memory. But Simon, though brilliant, was always a little odd because his mother, when pregnant, mistakenly took two conflicting prescriptions from two different doctors. Perpetually on the fringes, friendless since his friend Ozzie moved to the seashore, Simon lives in his imagination and his reading on metaphysical subjects. Then, in history class, a new girl named Andrea whispers to Simon exactly what the teacher says two minutes later. She can read minds. When Simon wonders aloud to her if he is having some kind of "mental episode" because he's so stressed about his "freaking life," Andrea says that she has come to help him. Is she an angel? A figment of his imagination? A ghost? The supernatural/paranormal, once confined to genre works, is becoming a standard element in film, television drama and mainstream fiction. Author Lesley Choyce brings together a smorgasbord of the unusual, including crop circles, witchcraft in Macbeth, levitation, out-of-body experiences, and the Zen experience of satori (a moment of transcendence, awe and well-being). Because of Simon's interest in the unexplained, these references are plausible and convincing, suggesting to the reader that, to paraphrase Hamlet, there are more things in heaven and earth that are dreamed of in our philosophy. Thanks to Andrea's friendship, Simon is better able to cope with his ambitious parents' quarrels. Andrea "tweaks" the mind of a girl Simon likes to make her ask him for help with a term paper on the Druids. But Andrea flatly refuses to discuss her past. Her sudden appearances and fade-outs jar Simon, who then consults Lydia, the town psychic. She advises him to worry less about what Andrea is and to stay focused on "who" she is. In hospital, Simon's consciousness moved to a heavenly world of safety and happiness that involved a beach. One of his unfulfilled hopes is that his dad will take him to see his friend, Ozzie, at the ocean. Two-thirds of the way through the novel, Simon learns something devastating about Ozzie. Still reeling from that shock, he comes upon an old newspaper article about a girl from a neighboring community who is a coma and on life support. Drawn to the article, he investigates and discovers that the girl is Andrea. Author Choyce has written an underdog story with a twist. The Cinder-fella must rescue the fairy godmother. Andrea's spirit leaves her sleeping body to come to Simon one last time. She tells him she is "leaving." Encouraged by Lydia, Simon visits the hospital, talks to her parents, seizes the comatose girl by the wrists and offers to go with her. In doing so, he brings her out of her coma. His reward: a restored Andrea who remembers nothing about him when he visits her at her school. After wakening the sleeping beauty, Simon feels "more normal," and yet the loss of his former dreamy state, attuned to a different drum, is a "kind of death"-a permanent locking of many of those closed rooms in the dark castle of the mind. The ending, involving a beach and a reunion, is happy, yet haunting. Choyce, former publisher of Pottersfield Press and successful author, has skillfully written a spiritual work. This reader is still brooding over the ending and wondering about the dedication. Highly Recommended. Ruth Latta of Ottawa, ON, is a teacher/writer/editor. Her mystery novel, Tea With Delilah, was published in November 2004 by Baico Publishing of Gatineau, PQ. -CM Online, February 18, 2005

Meet the Author

Lesley Choyce is one of Canada's most prolific authors. A resident of East Lawrencetown, Nova Scotia, he has published more than 50 works of fiction, non-fiction, and poetry. His previous young adult fiction includes Shoulder the Sky, which was shortlisted for 2004 White Pine Award. Smoke and Mirrors was shortlisted for the Canadian Library Association 2005 Young Adult Canadian Book Award.

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