Double or Nothing


168 pages
ISBN 1-55037-626-8
DDC jC813'.54






Reviewed by Dave Jenkinson

Dave Jenkinson is a professor in the Faculty of Education at the University of Manitoba and the author of the “Portraits” section of Emergency Librarian.


Dennis Foon, well known for his award-winning socially oriented plays
for children and adolescents, has created a young-adult novel with a
most disturbing theme. Kip Breaker, a likable, bright 17-year-old
student in his final high-school year, has a college fund of some
$12,000 thanks to his widowed mother’s sacrifice in working two jobs,
plus his own savings from waiting tables at his uncle’s restaurant.
Kip, however, is a problem gambler whose initial relatively petty
adolescent wagers and lunchtime poker games get transformed into the
high stakes of playing the ponies and slot machines when he meets
charismatic King Hewitt, the father of his new romantic interest.
Hewitt, a professional magician, is addicted to gambling, an activity
that his daughter, Joey, hates. Her father’s gambling has brought her
only emotional pain.

As the book progresses, readers watch helplessly as Kip becomes
increasingly enslaved by his addiction. To gamble, Kip skips school and
lies to everyone who loves and trusts him. Eventually, he not only loses
his entire college fund, but, after discovering a cyber casino, he
further betrays his mother by using her credit card. The teen sinks to
his lowest point when he steals from Joey’s purse. By the book’s
end, Kip, in risking all, has lost everything and everyone. A concluding
chapter offers readers momentary hope before Foon reveals that Kip has
learned nothing either from his experiences or from King Hewitt’s
suicide. Characterization is strong throughout, and Foon’s portrayal
of Kip’s downward spiral is, sadly, completely believable in this
fast-paced novel. Highly recommended.


Foon, Dennis., “Double or Nothing,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed April 16, 2024,