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The Beckoners

by Carrie Mac

When you’re the new kid in town, you keep to yourself or you make alliances. But if loners are easy targets, joining a group can be even dicier, as often the only one that will accept you is one you wouldn’t be caught dead around. Just ask Zoe, the main character of Carrie Mac’s edgy first novel. Zoe’s been a new kid nine times in her 15 years, but the Beckoners, a girl gang in her new high school in Abbotsford, are the worst kids she’s ever encountered. Pulled into the circle by the terrifying Beck herself, Zoe wonders if she can get out alive.

The adults – self-absorbed, self-righteous control freaks – are no help. Her mother is a mess who expects Zoe to pick up the pieces, including her toddler half-sister. Besides, there’s an ancient, inviolable code that says kids have to make it on their own, that tattling is the worst transgression of all. So the Beckoners terrorize and humiliate and vandalize with impunity.

This is no book to read at bedtime, though Mac provides some relief in such likable characters as the flamboyant Simon and his jock boyfriend. Then there’s Leaf, the extremely hot editor of the school newspaper. If there’s a problem with Mac’s tautly plotted book, it’s in the apparent assumption that kids have the resources to handle situations so far out of control. In real life, bullying on this scale takes the weight of the justice system to resolve, usually after someone – remember Reena Virk? – has paid a terrible price. That said, this young B.C. writer has produced an authentic and powerful book that will resonate with any kid who has gone to school.