Caught in the Act (2013), by Deb Loughhead

Loughead-CaughtThis review was first published in Resource Links Magazine, “Canada’s national journal devoted to the review and evaluation of Canadian English and French resources for children and young adults.” It appears in volume 19.1.

The Orca Currents series serves a very necessary function in the literary world: adolescents who for whatever reason are not keen on reading are presented with interesting stories that speak to their real lived experiences, with characters in whom they will recognize themselves and their friends—or enemies. Deb Loughead’s Caught in the Act is a fabulous addition to the Orca Current library, with characters who speak and act like the teenagers who hang out in our upstairs TV room, or inhale all the food from our fridge as they walk out the door.

Dylan and his friends have an end-of-the-school-year ritual: they sneak out into the woods and burn all their school notes in glorious, but unfortunately careless, abandonment. You can imagine how that goes wrong. That is only the beginning of Dylan being in the wrong place at the wrong time, compounding his troubles by some of the choices he makes. Notably, he does not “rat” on the school bully, who he suspects of stealing from local summer cottages, out of fear of retaliation. Given his earlier transgressions, the police suspect him. His claim of innocence is not helped by his clothing (which disappeared while he and his friends were skinny-dipping) being found near the scene. When he discovers who the actual thief might be, he again doesn’t tell, because it might jeopardize his new job. We watch him struggle with when to tell what to whom, wondering all the time what he will decide and where it will leave him. Loughead constructs her characters carefully enough that we cannot predict Dylan’s decisions any more than adults could a real teen. Through it all, we really like Dylan, despite cringing over some of his choices, and are relieved at the end when all comes out well. It is to Loughead’s credit that while narrative expectations led us to expect a satisfactory ending, Dylan’s story in no way ensures one.

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