Young Adult Fiction. Sixteen-year-old Darrah is in trouble. She lost her temper and, as a result, Mrs. Johnson, was hurt. Now the RCMP is demanding Darrah participate in something called "Restorative Justice." Darrah has to face Mrs. Johnson, her parents, a policewoman, and a "facilitator" who all sit in a circle and decide on Darrah's "sanctions." Sanctions aren't punishments, the facilitator tells her. At first Darrah doesn't believe this—helping Mrs. Johnson two afternoons a week feels like punishment. But ...
Young Adult Fiction. Sixteen-year-old Darrah is in trouble. She lost her temper and, as a result, Mrs. Johnson, was hurt. Now the RCMP is demanding Darrah participate in something called "Restorative Justice." Darrah has to face Mrs. Johnson, her parents, a policewoman, and a "facilitator" who all sit in a circle and decide on Darrah's "sanctions." Sanctions aren't punishments, the facilitator tells her. At first Darrah doesn't believe this—helping Mrs. Johnson two afternoons a week feels like punishment. But then Darrah realizes that she likes helping the older woman, especially when Mrs. Johnson teaches Darrah how to cook and bake (her recipes are included in the book). It turns out, however, that Mrs. Johnson is hiding a secret—she is going blind. Along with Robin, Mrs. Johnson's grandson, Darrah discovers this secret, and the two become co-conspirators, hiding the older woman's failing sight from her family. When Mrs. Johnson dies suddenly, it turns out that she was hiding two secrets: the second one an aggressive, painful, incurable cancer. Darrah discovers an empty bottle of Mrs. Johnson's pain medication. Did the old woman choose to take her own life to escape the pain and die with dignity? And if she did, what should Darrah do about what she has discovered?
Darrah's relationship with Mrs. Johnson is a poignant friendship. Mrs. J teaches Darrah patience, responsibility, and understanding. She acts like a true grandmother to Darrah and both of them find happiness in the companionship. The food and friendship built during the sanction hours will fill readers with warmth and thoughts of family and holidays. Andrew's epilepsy will strike home to many readers who have siblings with medical conditions and are often forgotten about because of their sibling's needs. The ending is realistic. Though the initial plot does not sound very interesting, anyone who reads this book will be pleased with it, especially those who like cooking, drama, and a little romance. Reviewer: Sarah Phillips, Teen Reviewer
- Debbie Wenk
"Whatever" is Darrah's snarky response to anything about which she does not want to talk. It is her answer when approached about participating in the Restorative Justice program as an alternative to court for a foolish prank she pulled that resulted in injury. She had pulled a hospital fire alarm in an angry snit over missing out on an audition at a local theater. The result of the Restorative Justice meeting has Darrah performing service hours for Mrs. J—the elderly woman who was injured as a result of Darrah's act. Initially wary of the woman, Darrah warms up to her and eventually comes to care for her. It does not hurt that Mrs. J has a cute grandson. Darrah is an unsympathetic character at the start of this story. She feels sorry for herself because her parents have focused most of their time and attention on her younger brother recently diagnosed with epilepsy. Some teen readers may be able to identify with her feelings of abandonment while others will have little patience for her. As she becomes more involved with Mrs. J, Darrah thinks less about herself and not only becomes much more likeable, but also sees what a brat she has been. When Mrs. J's health declines, Darrah learns the important life lesson of putting things in proper perspective. The ending seems to be little more than an opportunity for the author to air her feelings on quality of life issues, but the rest of the story is a wonderful advertisement for Canada's Restorative Justice program and a pleasant read. Reviewer: Debbie Wenk
- Desiree Solso
Sometimes the consequences of your actions reach farther than you would expect them to. This is a tough life lesson for Darrah who pulls the fire alarm at the hospital causing an elderly lady to break her leg. Reluctantly, Darrah agrees to participate in the Restorative Justice program instead of having to go through the formal court proceedings, and is assigned to care for Mrs. Johnson, who she harmed. At first Darrah is disgruntled and feels that she did not do anything wrong. As she is forced to look at her inner feelings and the reasons behind her actions, Darrah acknowledges the feelings she has been hiding. Feeling scared for her younger brother, who is an epileptic. Feeling left out when the family does not spent time together during dinner. A friendship soon develops between Darrah and Mrs. Johnson and the relationship between Darrah and her family begins to mend as she begins to cook family dinners for everyone. Thought provoking, engaging, and emotional, this book would be relatable to many teens. All teenagers, even those in stable homes like Darrah, experience feelings of anger, despair, and frustration. Everyone makes mistakes, and then hopefully has to learn how to make amends for those mistakes. The characters in the book are relatable and bring the reader into the story. In addition, a few of the recipes that Darrah learned to cook from Mrs. Johnson are included in the book. A delightful, heart-warming book that would be sure to be a good read for many. Reviewer: Desiree Solso; Ages 11 to 14.
Darrah, angry that her mother's preoccupation with her younger brother's out-of-control epilepsy has caused her to miss an important audition, pulls the fire alarm in the hospital and then must face the consequences. After pulling the alarm, while escaping down the stairs, Darrah accidentally knocks over elderly Mrs. Johnson, who breaks her leg. The consequences in the Canadian justice system are for her to face all the involved parties in a Restorative Justice circle; they then agree on an appropriate punishment. Darrah suffers from a bad attitude at the outset, showing little guilt and, initially, a lack of empathy. She's sentenced to provide in-home assistance to Mrs. Johnson, a wise, nearly blind lady who's determined to straighten the teen out, partly with cooking lessons that immediately strike a chord with Darrah. She quickly realizes that few know of Mrs. Johnson's eyesight problems and worries over whether to protect her secret. Darrah makes a remarkably rapid turnaround in attitude, becoming devoted to her slightly cranky mentor and also getting swept up in a new friendship with the woman's agreeable grandson. In addition to relying on the all-too-familiar transformation-under-tutelage-of-wise-elder trope, Walsh takes on more issues than she can effectively handle and never quite does justice to any of them, in spite of a few likable-enough characters. Darrah goes from too-bad to too-good way too fast to be believable or especially satisfying. (Fiction. 11-14)
Ann Walsh is the author of many books for younger readers, including Your Time, My Time; Shabash! and the Barkerville Mystery Series, set during British Columbia's gold rush. She also writes short stories, poetry and creative nonfiction pieces for adults, has compiled and edited three anthologies and is a facilitator with The Williams Lake Community Council for Restorative Justice. She lives in Williams Lake, BC, and spends part of the year in Victoria.