Dave Jenkinson is Associate Dean of the Faculty of Education at the
University of Manitoba.
Matas has already proven her ability to write imaginative and engaging
science and historical fiction with such works as Me, Myself and I and
Lisa; now she demonstrates her skill in handling the contemporary
problem novel. A five-day July national Liberal Leadership Convention in
Calgary, Alberta, would appear to be a most unusual setting for a teen
novel, especially one with a strong romance element. But Matas writes in
a lively style that captures the hoopla, color, and political drama of a
leadership race, and should so engage junior-high readers that they will
become almost as interested in discovering the identity of the new
national leader as they are in knowing the outcome of the teen romance.
Reminiscent of Romeo and Juliet’s family problems, the plot’s
romance links Winnipeg’s Ali Green, 14, and Montreal’s Paul James,
15; Ali’s mother and Paul’s father are principal leadership rivals.
Both Ali and Paul believe that their parents’ political lives have
affected the quality of their parenting; Ali feels smothered and Paul
ignored. As the teen pair respond to their mutual attraction, their
private emotions conflict with their candidate parents’
public/political lives. The budding romance encounters its biggest
challenge when the couple overhear Paul’s father accepting a bribe for
future government contracts. Questions of family loyalty and right and
wrong come to the fore: the two must decide what to do with the
information while also considering the effects any decision may have
both on the political race and on their relationship.
Besides having created an exciting story line and engaging characters,
Matas unobtrusively imparts a great deal of information about the
political process. She effectively employs the stylistic device of
dividing the book into five sections, which correspond to the five
convention days. Within each “day,” chapter headings are times
(e.g., “1:30 P.M.”). An epilogue, “Tuesday, September 2 (Two
Months Later),” ties up loose ends.