Quill and Quire


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by Valerie Sherrard

Life is a mug’s game for Porter Delancy, the 16-year-old protagonist of this engaging work of YA social realism. Stuck in government housing in Toronto with his chronically depressed mother and an older sister, Porter has kicked his pot habit and kleptomania, and got his marks up after an extended run-in with a tough-love parole officer. Porter has passed through the worst of his troubles, it seems, but life remains largely pointless.

Lurking at the periphery of Porter’s world is a mysterious stranger who may or may not be his father, missing for over 12 years. While the stranger, whom Porter dubs the Watcher, maintains a cautious distance, Porter begins to question his mother’s version of her ex-husband’s sudden disappearance.

Sherrard keeps the action moving while parcelling out just enough back story to maintain suspense and flesh out the small but lively cast of characters. The central mystery is compelling, but Sherrard is at her best when chronicling the goofy, slightly anxious off-hours of essentially decent teens with nothing to do. The ending errs on the side of tidiness but is saved by a welcome lack of sentimentality, something Porter and his hard-headed buddies would no doubt appreciate.