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 18.1
Orca Soundings books are becoming increasingly more interesting and poignant. Dead Run begins in media res, with the protagonist surging forth from a stoplight, set on winning a cycling race that afternoon. Immediately, we are wrapped up in Sam’s life, his expectations, his dreams. The story is written in the first-person present tense, which contributes significantly to our feeling of involvement in Sam’s life. Sam’s life, however, is not going so very well. Despite his obvious abilities as a cyclist, he is part of a team whose leader does not give him any chance of success. When his youthful impatience causes him to be kicked off the team, his hopes are shattered. Then an apparent rival, impressed with his abilities, hands him hope in the form of an introduction to Viktor: previous Russian Olympic gold medallist, now a refugee and owner of a cycle courier business. Sam not only learns from Viktor, but ultimately becomes involved in his business in way that he suspects is not quite legitimate… but like Viktor’s pride in his business, Sam’s desire for cycling stardom gets in the way of his sense of right and wrong.
Sam’s story is one that most young people will be able to relate to. Sean Rodman has created characters and a situation that are both intriguing and yet believable. The moral lesson he learns is not specific to his situation, but an essential consideration of honour or cultivated blindness to what one knows—or at least strongly suspects—is wrong. As Viktor says, “Sometimes you want something so badly that you make yourself blind. To reality. To the truth. You trade away your honor. Your freedom” (101). In the end, Viktor and Sam make it right, but only at significant expense to themselves. This is as it should be, Rodman is careful to portray: if you break the law, or even a moral code, you must pay a penalty. The penalty Sam pays is fitting, as is Viktor’s, and the reader comes away feeling that not only has justice been served, but that Sam has become a stronger, better person for his experience. Not all tales of youth involvement in crime are so honest and yet so ultimately hopeful; Rodman has given us a story that is powerful and effective—I hope that all young teens have an opportunity to learn the lesson he gives us.