Getting a Life


223 pages
ISBN 1-894549-18-X
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.


Fifteen-year-old Carly’s best friend, Tanya, broke up with her in a
letter, telling her to “get a life.” So Carly befriends a new girl,
Dawn, who just moved into a basement apartment across the street. Dawn,
16, is poor. She and her mother both have to work, and they need someone
to look after the two youngest members of the family, Amber and Skye.
Carly volunteers, but on top of all her other activities, she is clearly
in over her head. Carly’s inability to keep up with the babysitting
leads her to abandon the children, and a fire results.

Shipley is rather judgmental when it comes to Dawn and her struggling
family. She portrays Dawn as a young woman far too interested in makeup
and her sexuality, and she depicts Dawn’s mother in a similarly
sexualized light. The two appear to be the bad ones and the social
workers who hound them the good ones. What Carly needs to realize is
that, like her own mentally ill mother, Dawn and her mother are

Carly does manage to get a life, however. By the time Tanya writes
again, apologetically, at the end of the novel, Carly is completely
uninterested. Instead, she calls her new boyfriend, Zach. This book is
not recommended.


Shipley, Jocelyn., “Getting a Life,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed April 18, 2024,