Author: Rachele Alpine
Publisher: Medallion Press
Release date: August 1st 2013
Genre: Young Adult contemporary
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My rating: 3 out of 5 starsKate Franklin’s life changes for the better when her dad lands a job at Beacon Prep, an elite private school with one of the best basketball teams in the state. She begins to date a player on the team and quickly gets caught up in a world of idolatry and entitlement, learning that there are perks to being an athlete.
But those perks also come with a price. Another player takes his power too far and Kate is assaulted at a party. Although she knows she should speak out, her dad’s vehemently against it and so, like a canary sent into a mine to test toxicity levels and protect miners, Kate alone breathes the poisonous secrets to protect her dad and the team. The world that Kate was once welcomed into is now her worst enemy, and she must decide whether to stay silent or expose the corruption, destroying her father’s career and bringing down a town’s heroes.
Even though I hadn't heard all that much about this book, I was really excited to read Canary. Issues of like sexual assault and consent are really important to me, so I really appreciate when YA books talk about these topics. I was disappointed to see, though, that these issues aren't the focus of the story for the main part of the novel, and I didn't enjoy the other storylines as much. That's why Canary turned out to be only an okay read for me.
The pacing of Canary is really strange. The first part is on the slow side: we get to read about Kate's life at her new school in tons of detail. I kept waiting for the assault to take place, but it didn't happen until about 350 pages in. And since there are only about 50 pages left, the last part - the one that I was most interested in - is very underdeveloped. The themes that the description hints at, and Kate's decision with whether or not to go public about the assault, aren't explored enough. Everything is rushed, which made the ending seem too happy and unrealistic, since we don't get to witness the growth the characters undergo. I really wish the first part had been cut short, and Kate's struggle with the assault had been elaborated on more.
Instead of focusing on the assault mentioned in the description, the novel tells readers about Kate's new life and friends at the elite private school. That whole setup seemed stereotypical to me, and the plot is very predictable. None of Kate's classmates are fully developed characters, and I guess that their superficiality is sort of the point, but I still would have liked to see a more human side to Kate's friends Ali and Jenna and her boyfriend Jack. The only characters I really enjoyed reading about are Kate's brother Brett and his girlfriend Julia.
But even if I didn't enjoy the plot all that much, I did like Rachele Alpine's writing. When the story dragged, the writing is what made me keep reading. I especially liked Kate's blog posts, which are partly poetry and partly just random pieces of writing. That gave some variation to the writing, which I really liked.
Canary isn't a bad book: it's an interesting, if predictable, story of figuring out who your real friends are and where you belong. But it isn't what the description promises, since it doesn't really address the important issues of consent and sexual assault. That's why Canary was kind of a disappointment for me.