Stuff We All Get (2011), by K. L. Denman

This 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 17.1.

Stuff We All Get

Orca Currents has once again hit the mark with K. L. Denman’s Stuff We All Get.  The mandate of the series is to provide interesting, mature content in a simple writing style, to engage older yet less-advanced readers. Stuff We All Get succeeds in this respect admirably.
Zack, the protagonist, has sound-colour synethsesia, a rare but fascinating condition that causes him to see colours when he hears sounds.  Geocaching with his mother (in lieu of staying home while grounded), he finds a home-made CD of music that moves him both emotionally and visually. The conflict in the narrative centres on his struggling to find the artist on the CD (while still grounded) and the emotional growth involved in learning that expectation is not always satisfied by reality.
The conflicts Zack encounters are not earth-shattering or dramatic, but the real day-to-day struggles a teen recently moved to the small city of Penticton, British Columbia, might face (or in Zack’s case, create for himself).  A suspension of disbelief is required in one pivotal scene, wherein Zack is fog-bound on the hillside above Skaha Lake at noon; once we get past this meteorological anomaly, the setting and plot come together in a very satisfying way. The most powerful element in the text, however, is undoubtedly the emotional honesty of the characters Denman creates.  Despite the simplicity of the narrative, Zack could be a real person, and his responses to the situations he finds himself in resonate with authenticity.

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