Odd Man Out


162 pages
ISBN 0-88899-703-5
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.


While his mother and new, unwanted stepfather are honeymooning in
Hawaii, Ontarian Kip Coulter, 12, finds himself the odd man out when he
is sent to spend a month with his grandmother and five visiting female
cousins on an island off the B.C. coast. Residing in the attic spaces
once occupied by his father, Tristan, while growing up, Kip discovers a
binder filled with Tristan’s “autobiographical” writings and
drawings created during Tristan’s high-school years. Since Kip has
only limited memories of his father, who was killed in an accident while
Kip was still in kindergarten, he becomes increasingly fascinated by
Tristan’s world of created global conspiracies and intrigue while
simultaneously identifying with some of Tristan’s personal social
challenges. However, an overheard conversation ultimately reveals to Kip
that Tristan’s imagined world had become his reality and that Tristan
had been hospitalized and pharmaceutically treated for paranoid
schizophrenia, facts that had been withheld from Kip by his mother and

What Kip does with this information drives the story’s possibly
disturbing but deliciously ambiguous conclusion. Though Kip is the
book’s main character, Ellis sketches the six principal secondary
characters, all female, in sufficiently broad strokes that readers will
be intrigued to know more about each of them, especially the backstories
to the quirkiness some exhibit. The book’s setting becomes somewhat
unusual in that, because Gran’s old house is to be demolished at
summer’s end, permissive Gran allows her grandchildren much leeway in
“redecorating,” including Kip’s being able to construct a yurt in
the attic. Highly recommended.


Ellis, Sarah., “Odd Man Out,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed May 22, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/31097.