Out of the Ashes


216 pages
ISBN 1-55002-382-9
DDC C813'.6





Reviewed by Laura M. Robinson

Laura M. Robinson is assistant professor of English, specializing in
children’s literature, at Nipissing University in North Bay, Ontario.


Valerie Sherrard is the executive director of a group home for
adolescents. In this, her first young-adult novel, she takes a
sympathetic approach to teens who commit vandalism by isolating the
factors that lead to crime—in this case, sexual abuse—not to allow
the perpetrator to shirk responsibility but to highlight the
possibilities for understanding, help, and rehabilitation.

Shelby Belgarde, a Grade 10 student, is a typical teenaged girl, with a
typical best friend, Bett. She is so typical, in fact, that the
beginning of the novel reads like Judy Blume’s Are You There God?
It’s Me, Margaret. Shelby has a crush on the handsome, athletic Nick
Jarvis, but Bett keeps trying to convince her that the new guy in town,
Greg Taylor, is the “man of her dreams.”

When a series of fires break out in their neighborhood, however,
everything changes. Shelby decides to find the arsonist. Her sleuthing
leads her to believe that the fire-starter is Greg, and that he’s been
sexually abused. Shelby researches the symptoms of sexual abuse and
begins to consider the lives of all of her friends.

Out of the Ashes highlights that those being abused do act out, and it
encourages friends to watch for indirect communication. This compelling
story—one that is made palatable for teen readers because it balances
the serious issues with the entertainment of a girl-detective novel—is
highly recommended.


Sherrard, Valerie., “Out of the Ashes,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 13, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/23562.