The Girl in the Backseat
March 01, 2008
In this fast-paced, on the road, YA novel, Norma Charles once again manages to include provocative social issues in an adventure story that will appeal to children from age twelve and up. The novel opens with Toby, a young girl in a Bountiful-style community, being caught secretly reading at night. The community leaders decide that she must be married at once to the prophet, an older man. Hearing of the plan, Toby decides to escape to Winnipeg where she has a sympathetic aunt. Fortunately, at this moment she meets Jacob and Minerva Armstrong and learns they are on their way to Winnipeg in the family Mini. During the night, she steals away and hides herself in the backseat of the Mini. Jacob and Minerva have their own set of problems, since they are black and their Caribbean mother has recently remarried, this time to a penny-pinching Englishman who has two children of his own, and who seems wholly alien to the siblings. When the two Armstrong children discover Toby hiding in the backseat, she pleads with them not to tell their parents, since they will surely call the police. As the trio make their way across the country to Winnipeg, all sorts of problems arise as Jacob and Minerva learn more about Toby's plight and her life in the religious community. On the other side, Toby comes to see some of the challenges involved with a blended marriage where colour is involved. But as with all novels by Norma Charles, there is also much fun and laughter as the family visits famous prairie sights, such as the renowned dinosaur display in Drumheller. In the end, the adults as well as the children learn uncomfortable truths about themselves.
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