134 pages
ISBN 0-00-639170-2
DDC jC813'.54




Susannah D. Ketchum, a former teacher-librarian at the Bishop Strachan
School in Toronto, serves on the Southern Ontario Library Services


Percival (Perk) Montmount, Jr., is not quite a loner, but his one
friend, Elissa, is worried about him. A week before graduation, Perk,
who has behaving more and more erratically, is becoming a caricature of
himself. One year ago, a third member of their group, Willard, committed
suicide. Two years before that, Perk’s anthropologist father died in
the Congo. Perk remembers that his father, the night he died,
“materialized at my bedside … and inserted the magical orbs [his
eyes] into my sockets.”

First-person narratives can sometimes be very limiting, but Slade,
whose novel Dust won a Governor General’s Literary Award, uses the
technique brilliantly to develop the plot and, gradually, to reveal
Perk’s character. Describing his room, Perk enumerates all his
specimens, then adds, “Off to one side was my collection of plastic
Star Trek figurines … They have no anthropological value but deserve a
place of honor on my dresser.”

Beautifully written, Tribes brims with understated humor. Perk
classifies everyone he meets. He has identified the Jock, Busybody,
Digerati, Lipstick/Hairspray, and Logo tribes. He encounters the
“fleet-footed tribe of Sneaks” and a “matriarch of the Denture
tribe.” However, younger readers may miss many of the jokes. As well,
Perk distances himself from his world by using a pedantic narrative
style that could alienate some readers. For many teens, however,
Perk’s determination to be true to himself will be reaffirming. Highly


Slade, Arthur., “Tribes,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed May 21, 2024,