Colleen Nelson’s 250 Hours is the story of two people whose lives intersect at a crucial juncture. Sara Jean has just finished high school and spends her days caring for her bedridden grandmother. Jess is a justifiably angry young Métis man assigned to do community service cleaning Sara Jean’s garage. Both of them seek ways to escape their often dismal realities: Sara Jean writes stories, Jess starts fires (the reason for his community service).
Finding common ground via the unlikely bond of parental abandonment, Sara Jean and Jess each confide painful elements of their pasts and choose a direction for their respective futures. The story is told from the points of view of both main characters, allowing the reader to better understand their reactions to one another and various events.
At first it seems as though 250 Hours will be a typical boy-meets-girl teen love story, but any spark between Sara Jean and Jess is incidental. Nelson deftly touches upon issues relevant to Canadian society, such as the lingering damage done by the residential school system, the casual racism experienced by First Nations and Métis on a daily basis, substance abuse, and relationship dynamics. If any criticism can be made about the book, it is that some of its secondary characters are pale and one-dimensional compared to the vivid portraits of Jess and Sara Jean. However, this also serves to underscore the intensity of their shared experience.
Due to some coarse language and mature subject matter, this is a novel that may be better suited to a slightly older YA audience than the recommended 12+.