I Owe You One (2011), by Natalie Hyde

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 17.2.

I Own You One

“How does a guy go about paying back a life debt anyway? And what if it involves a transmission tower, an ice-cream truck, and a few sticks of dynamite?”  How could any young reader resist a book whose back cover asks this question?  I Owe You One lives up to expectations, providing a fun-filled “house-that-jack-built” story of connections, both logistical and emotional.  Wes, the protagonist, builds on his dead father’s lessons of respect and honour, and learns the value of community and giving. The sacrifice he makes to help the old woman—once an adventurous ski-racer—who saved his life, and to whom he feels he owes a “life debt,” ultimately is about love and respect, not the “one” he feels he “owes” her.
It is seldom that a text written simply, for younger readers, makes me both giggle and tear up.  Natalie Hyde has created characters with humourous traits, realistic flaws, and yet a sense of integrity and community that restore one’s faith in people.  There is sufficient suspense, and juvenile pranks, to grip young readers’ imaginations, yet the ethical and moral code that Wes is striving to adhere to does not come across as didactic or incongruous. The balance is effective, resulting in a text that is as rewarding to give to a child as it will be for the child to read.