164 pages
ISBN 0-7780-1211-5
DDC C813'.54






Reviewed by Lori A. Dunn

Lori A. Dunn is an ESL teacher, instructional designer, and freelance
writer in New Westminster.


The basic storyline of this novel is simple: teachers and students at a
Catholic separate high school in Toronto work through difficulties in
their lives and end up more aware of who they really are. On another
level, Losers is about the difficulty of growing up with an
understanding of spirituality, of dealing with abuse, and, most
importantly, of overcoming the angst of the teen years.

I wanted to enjoy this book. Paci’s Black Madonna is a bestseller,
and in his eight other books he has gained a reputation for creating the
literary voice of the Italian Canadian. Unfortunately, the point-of-view
changes are awkward and disorienting, veering from first person to a
third-person within the same sentence, narrowing from omniscient to
first person and back again within a paragraph.

I also found the characters unbelievable, especially the women. In a
very short book, which nevertheless covers nearly a full school year in
the lives of its characters, a teen girl’s day is ruined three times
by “killer cramps.” It seems as though the author uses menstrual
cramps as a plot device for putting his young female protagonist in a
foul mood. Maria, the teenager, and Brenda, the spinster teacher, are
overweight, and this is the only explanation given for the complexity of
their emotional problems.

The voices of the teenagers are unrealistic, mixing age-appropriate
jargon with the author’s omniscient voice. In one scene, the reader is
treated to a description of a wall of religious decorations, through the
eyes of the teen girl. Ten great philosophers, old and new, are named
although “she didn’t recognise any of them.” The girl recognises
the Buddha’s “mendicant’s stick,” but when challenged to
describe a personality she decides “there was a word for that that she
had heard once and forgotten.” Another teen character’s thoughts
contain words such as “speculated,” “anarchy,” and
“Freemasons,” but also the observation: “The Catholic Church had
something called a hierarchy.”

The overall style of the writing is weak. Characters’ reactions are
explained instead of shown. The clichés are sometimes overwhelming: one
character is described as having both a “razor-sharp wit” and a
“penetrating stare” in the same sentence. The author often writes
description. In many choppy sentences. Like this. Very annoying. These
problems detract from a story that many teenagers could identify with.


Paci, F.G., “Losers,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 19, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/29519.