The Trouble with Liberty


92 pages
ISBN 1-55143-274-9
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.


Life changes for Val MacQueen, 15, of Sutter’s Crossing, a small
community near Kamloops, B.C., when the wealthy and gorgeous Liberty
Hayes, also 15, arrives in late August. The pair immediately become best
friends, and Liberty and Cody (Val’s older brother) become a couple.
Despite Liberty’s immense popularity at school, Val observes that Ryan
Wilson, her other best friend since Grade 1, completely avoids Liberty,
his public coolness to her apparently being reciprocated. While Val
wants her two best friends to also be friends, this concern becomes
secondary when Liberty claims that Mr. Henderson, the school’s
30–something band teacher, married and a father, tried to rape her.
Ostensibly Liberty’s “best” friend, Val is surprised that Liberty
will not talk to her about what allegedly occurred. When Ryan finally
discusses the assault with Val, he reveals that he accidentally
witnessed what really happened, but, because of his public animosity
toward Liberty, he fears not being believed. After Liberty dumps both
Cody and Val for a college guy and older friends, Val confronts Liberty
with what Ryan saw. Liberty’s mother overhears the conversation, and
the novel quickly ends with the Hayes family moving away and Liberty
leaving a public letter confessing her false accusation.

A former teacher, Butcher is mindful of how adolescents, as they become
aware of the power of their emerging sexuality, sometimes test it out on
adults around them. Although it is the adults’ responsibility to set
limits, all teachers are still vulnerable to false accusations. Butcher
accurately captures the gossipy social milieu of a school and a small
community. As she shows with Mr. Henderson, even after being found
innocent, you can still be considered guilty by some people. The
book’s sole loose end is that we are not told what penalty Liberty
received for her fabrication. Recommended.


Butcher, Kristin., “The Trouble with Liberty,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed May 30, 2024,