Wennick, Elizabeth. Whatever Doesn't Kill You.
4Q * 3P * M * J
Wennick, Elizabeth. Whatever Doesn't Kill You. Orca, 2013. 208p. $12.95 Trade pb. 9781-4598-0083-0.
Fifteen years ago, Jenna's father was murdered in a convenience store robbery. Later, her mother became disabled after a botched suicide attempt. Now, Jenna and her siblings are scraping out a life one step above poverty. Jenna's outcast friends make life bearable, so when she learns that Travis has been released from prison, the crew convinces her that she must confront the man who destroyed her family. Jenna's investigation reveals more than she had been led to believe and her obsession causes a rift with her family and friends. Jenna discovers that Travis had actually been her big brother Simon's best friend, and when she finally squeezes the truth out of him, she learns that the murder had been a horrible accident.
Smart, quirky characters struggle with bullying, homelessness, and abuse in a cold and gritty Canadian steel town. Yet Wennick does not overdramatize the issues; she merely describes the realities of life in the inner-city as a backdrop for the story of a girl searching for the truth. Readers will empathize with Jenna, who daydreams about perfect TV sitcom families and knits tacky sweaters as if she is stitching her home and family life back together. Jenna and Simon rely on frequent, off-color but affectionate name-calling, not unlike typical siblings. Despite touching on heavy issues, the story holds surprising twists and light humor. Younger teens will appreciate the fast, easy read.--Ann McDuffie.