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.
Coming Clean is more edgy than many of the Orca Soundings novels, even given their intent as “short high-interest novels with contemporary themes, written expressly for teens reading below grade level” (Orca website). The protagonist, Rob, finally lands a gig as DJ at the local club, but things go horribly wrong when a girl from his class—to whom he has been attracted but to no avail—is found dead behind the sound system at the end of his shift. His brother—with whom he has a complicate and not always positive relationship—is involved in the drug scene that caused her death, and Rob must decide what to do as an innocent yet not uninvolved party. The choices he makes are completely understandable, but not necessarily those that all young people would make. Jeff Ross provides his readers with a scenario that causes them to think “what would I do in this situation?” The answers—as both Rob and the reader soon realize—are neither obvious nor easy.
Ultimately, the choices Rob makes are the right ones… but they do not come without a cost. Readers will appreciate the ethical dilemma he has to struggle with, and his ultimate decisions, whether or not his choices are the same as they might have made. Good literature gives rise to such questioning in the readers: while short, and simply written, Coming Clean counts as extremely effective literature.