Something to Hang On To

16 September 2009

Something to Hang On To
by Beverly Brenna
Published by Thistledown Press
Review by Judith Silverthorne
$12.95 ISBN 978-1-897235-57-7

Beverley Brenna’s new collection of short stories for teens is poignant and powerful. Each one is told in a clear, positive and simple way, so that Something to Hang On To will appeal to many readers. Her characters are both quirky and honest as they go through tough times. They all seem to overcome their obstacles by capturing lasting resolutions from within.

Sometimes the stories are based on real life incidents and sometimes they are slightly autobiographical. Often they provide insights into a variety of serious life issues, such as loss, family violence, autism, Down’s Syndrome, or marginalization. She explores these adversities from a variety of angles. There are also some that are more-light hearted stories like the one about getting a toe caught in a vacuum cleaner, or another about parachuting from a plane for the first time.

The award-winning author uses both first person and third person narrations in this compelling collection. As an added feature, there’s also an intriguing one-act play. This is her first and it’s an existential one, which captures the absurd, echoing sentiments many teens will identify with. They also offer effective problem solving to overcome the seemingly impossible.

Although these stories were written over a span of twenty years, their themes and issues are relevant in today’s world, and will continue to be into the future. Filled with pathos and zany humour, there is also warmth and immediacy as the reader is drawn into the lives of the characters. Whether about a boogie-boarding Australian, a young gifted Cree girl, a young boy with autism, or someone longing for acceptance, all have important messages about courage and finding your way. Sometimes distressing and sometimes tender, all touch the reader, underlining the belief that when things get tough, ‘we all need something to hang on to.’

The characters in this book provide encouraging examples for all teens to look within for resolve and to reach out to others in need. They are also a great read for anyone!


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