Kate Franklin’s life changes for the better when her dad lands a job at Beacon Prep, an elite private school with one of the best basketball teams in the state. She begins to date a player on the team and quickly gets caught up in a world of idolatry and entitlement, learning that there are perks to being an athlete.
But those perks also come with a price. Another player takes his power too far and Kate is assaulted at a party. Although she knows she should speak out, her dad’s vehemently against it and so, like a canary sent into a mine to test toxicity levels and protect miners, Kate alone breathes the poisonous secrets to protect her dad and the team. The world that Kate was once welcomed into is now her worst enemy, and she must decide whether to stay silent or expose the corruption, destroying her father’s career and bringing down a town’s heroes.
Canary is told in a mix of prose and verse.
I’m going to confess here, and say this is a book where I think the jacket flap hurt me as a reader. I expected the assault to be the inciting event for the book. Rather, it happens almost at the end, which, really, changes the entire purpose and perception of the book. I felt myself being a bit bored at times, waiting for that event to happen, waiting, in my head, for the story to really start.
Here’s the thing, it’s not a book about an assault. Yes, that happens, and yes, it has an impact and a purpose, but it’s not the bigger thing. And unfortunately, I think it’s a bit damaging to be aware this is where things are headed from the start.
Stepping back from that, though, and coming away from reading this one to realize it’s a book about a girl torn between herself and those around her, her family and what she needs, and even just trying to really figure out who she is… it’s a great book. It’s poignant, and it’s impacting, and in a lot of ways, it’s the heart of what YA is to me. No, things aren’t easy for Kate, no she’s not totally happy with the good things she’s got, and yes, she does some things that are frustrating as a reader. But she’s just a girl trying to work through it all, and I think in that sense, Alpine wrote a stunning story.
My issues with this one are really with my expectations because of the flap. Would I have been any less likely to pick it up if it was portrayed as a book about a girl at odds with her dad and those around her? No. That is something I would read, and what I loved the most about this book. Even as an adult, there is so much to relate to and connect to in this story. And what I loved the most, was how even when we see Kate doing things that maybe I didn’t agree with or, knowing the assault was headed her way, wanted to scream at her to not do… It just made it that much clearer to me that she’s just trying to find her way. And she doesn’t have all the experiences I do, or even the foresight I do as a reader.
Add in the strong voice of this one, and the blog posts mixed in throughout, and there is something very engaging right away about this one. The school it’s set at takes on a life of it’s own, and I think Alpine has captured the entitlement that can sometimes come in set ups like this, and the repercussions of it on everyone else, in a really great way.
What also stands out, here, is Kate’s family. Her brother, who is so angry, and seeming to be growing more distant all the time, yet who still is comfortable with himself, even in this new school that doesn’t like him, and who is there for her when she needs it. Then there’s her father, who is seeming to put himself and his job above his daughter… even after an assault. That is something that is so, so hard to swallow and yet, I think Alpine has woven it together in a way that even if I didn’t like it, I still sort of saw his side. Kind of. And the ways his actions effect and drive Kate gave this book an even stronger element that I totally loved.
So while this is one I needed to sit back and mull over, and deconstruct my expectations post read, it’s one I would absolutely read again, especially with this new take on it. For all you contemporary lovers, definitely add this to your list, and keep an eye on this stunning debut writer.
Source: ARC received from author/publisher in exchange for an honest review
Age Range: 12 and up
Paperback: 400 pages
Publisher: Medallion Press
Publication Date: August 1, 2013