Alibi (2014), by Kristin Butcher

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 20.1.

Butcher-AlibiOnce again, Kristin Butcher has created a protagonist teen readers will readily identify with. Christine is curious, attentive, and logical, but still sometimes can misinterpret her world. When she visits her Great-aunt Maude in the fictional Witcombe, BC, and learns of a spate of petty robberies in the area, her interest—and imagination—are piqued. At first she suspects Simon, an amateur magician who is working his way west to Vancouver from Calgary. When his alibi is established, she has to dig past the obvious to find clues to the real identity of the thief—or thieves. Other suspects’ alibis complicate Christine’s investigations, but with Simon’s help she narrows the field until a trap can be set to catch the thief in the act.

Underlying this simple story—part of the Orca Current series of high-interest novels aimed at reluctant readers—is a truth we all (one hopes) learn at some point: as Simon tells Christine, “the first law of magic [and life] is that things are not what they seem” (92). Christine, like most teens, is troubled by “the realization that [she] can’t tell the good guys from the bad guys” (58). We’d most of us like our world to be easier to interpret: none more than teens who are learning to negotiate the complications of the adult world. Alibi provides the necessary (if somewhat stereotypic) elements of a narrative of teen-enablement: the eccentric (read: non-parental) adult who nonetheless provides security; the somewhat mysterious outsider, a narrative foil who provides companionship; a threat presented by the adult world; and the internal means (awareness, psychological strength, intelligence) to face the threat successfully. Christine doesn’t learn an important “life lesson,” but she grows in self-awareness and understanding of the word around her, both necessary qualities on the road to adulthood.

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