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Leslie’s Journal

by Allan Stratton

Fifteen-year-old Leslie hides her lack of sexual experience behind a provocative facade of micro-miniskirts and fishnet stockings. She talks tough, skips school, and dabbles in drugs, but her journal reveals her vulnerable side. Stinging from her parents’ divorce and fearful of losing her well-behaved best friend, Leslie falls for an older boy, Jason, who reels her into a terrifying world of date rape, abuse, and blackmail.

Allan Stratton’s skill as a playwright shines through in his first novel for teens. Leslie’s voice is absolutely authentic, the dialogue sizzles, and the action sequences are vividly described. At first I had trouble believing that each beautifully crafted chapter could have been written by Leslie in 15 minutes of a Grade 10 English class (perhaps I’m just envious), but I was quickly seduced by Leslie’s compelling narrative, her complex, believable character, and the plot’s breakneck pace. Teen readers will gallop through this book and cheer at the end when Leslie stands up for herself and the other girls Jason victimized.

The journal as a literary form is doubly appropriate for this story. Not only does it effectively illuminate Leslie’s inner angst, it also plays a role as incriminating evidence against Jason. Too many details about the journal are ignored, however, such as its whereabouts after Leslie removes it from school. At this point, the dramatic focus shifts to the recovery of some explicit Polaroids; both Leslie and Jason ignore the journal for several chapters and it is unclear whether we are reading journal entries or Leslie’s inner monologue. Ambiguities such as these slow down an otherwise runaway good read.