Wrong Time, Wrong Place


116 pages
ISBN 0-88780-099-8
DDC jC813'.54





Reviewed by Dave Jenkinson

Dave Jenkinson is Associate Dean of the Faculty of Education at the
University of Manitoba.


Corey Wheeler, a high-school student in Darmouth, Nova Scotia, always
seems to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. For instance, while
cutting class, Corey retreats to the school’s smoke-filled washroom,
where he is discovered by a teacher and accused of smoking. Principal
“Heartless” Hartman, unwilling to listen to Corey’s claims of
innocence, calls in Corey’s mother and treats her in what Corey
perceives to be a condescending fashion. Corey attributes the white
principal’s behaviors to the fact that “all he saw in front of him
was an uneducated, unimportant black woman.”

Whites’ historical and contemporary treatment of Nova Scotia’s
black population becomes a recurring theme. Because Corey’s father is
white, Corey finds himself caught between two worlds—a situation
exacerbated by his light skin color, which would allow him to reject his
black heritage and pass as white. Corey makes his racial choice when
classroom hijinks result in a white student calling a black classmate a
“nigger”; Corey identifies with his black friends. Escalating racial
tensions lead to Corey being involved in a classroom incident with the
same white student, “Big John” Barker. Hartman, unreceptive to
Corey’s explanation that his behavior was caused by Barker’s
repeated use of a racial epithet, suspends Corey for a week. On
Corey’s return, Barker picks a fight that results in Barker’s
accidentally receiving a concussion. Corey, assuming he will be blamed,
initially hides from police. Ultimately, with family help, Corey’s
immediate problems are resolved positively, although the school system
and its agent, Hartman, who has finally acknowledged that a race
relations problem exists, must still take corrective measures.

While a quick, pleasant read for a middle-school audience, this
book’s brevity forces Choyce to treat a serious issue in a somewhat
superficial manner. Hartman remains too much the villain, and Corey’s
father’s sudden behavior change at the book’s conclusion seems
inconsistent character-wise. The incident that brings Corey into contact
with his maternal grand-uncle Larry stretches credibility, although the
resulting subplot does allow Choyce to reveal aspects of local black


Choyce, Lesley., “Wrong Time, Wrong Place,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed May 20, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/24457.