________________ CM . . . . Volume XXIII Number . . . .March 17, 2017


Pinch Me. (Orca Soundings).

Gabrielle Prendergast.
Victoria, BC: Orca, 2017.
125 pp., pbk., pdf & epub, $9.95 (pbk.).
ISBN 978-1-4598-1364-9 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-4598-0365-6 (pdf), ISBN 978-1-4598-1366-3 (epub).

Grades 8-12 / Ages 13-17.

Review by Penta Ledger.

**** /4

Reviewed from Advance Reading Copy.



It started to rain a little bit. Keir put my hoodie on. I was going to let him keep it, but he figured it out. In that way stoned people figure things out. Slowly.

“Sorry, dude.” He took my hoodie off and handed it back to me. I put it on and he just sat there getting wet. And I felt like an ever bigger douchebag than I was in my other life. Or the dream or whatever it was.

Maybe this was the dream. I had an idea. A dumb one, but is was born of desperation.

“Dude,” I said to Keir. “Pinch me.”


“Pinch me. Like you’re trying to wake me up.”

I thought he’d argue, like any normal person would. But he didn’t. He just reached over and pinched my arm. Hard.

“Ow!” I shoved him. It was just an instinctive reaction.

He shoved my back. I jumped on him and got him in a headlock. We were playing, but not. It was a guy thing. Sometimes you just need to fight. If people understood that in school, kids would be a lot happier. Keir tried to wriggle out of the headlock by grabbing me under my arms. And I’m super ticklish, so I screamed like a girl. Now he knew my weakness. Then we were rolling around, me holding his head, rubbing my knuckles on his skull, him with his thumbs jammed in my armpits. Both of us howling like lunatics.

I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised when we took a breather and saw two cops striding toward us. A white lady and a Sikh man. They both looked very disappointed.

Keir swore. Loud. He squirmed away from me and took off so fast into the trees that he was like a blur. I knew better than to run from police. Another thing Mom taught me.

“What’s going on here, son?” the dude in the tuban said as I turned back to them.

“Nothing. We were just playing around.” I mean, this was Kits Beach. I was sure this cop had seen stranger things.

“Why’d your friend run?”

Okay, I was a little scared. A black kid is always a little scared of cops. That’s just how it is. So I threw Keir under the bus. I’m not proud.

“He’s got drugs on him.”

“Do you have drugs on you?

“No, sir.”

These two cops looked at each other like they wanted to laugh at how clueless I was. Why had I left the school? I could have been warm and napping in math class at that very moment. Instead I was cold, damp and about to be frisked.

“Can you empty your pockets, please?” the lady cop said.

I reached into the pockets of my hoodie and froze, every kind of curse imaginable resonating in my head.

Keir had stashed his bag of weed in my pocket.


Darius Zaine is a teenage singing sensations who rocketed to the top of the music charts from an uploaded YouTube video. He has the money, the estate, and the life, but he also has an alcoholic father who continually goes into rehab and no one special in his life to ground him. One night after passing out on his game’s room couch following an awards party at his Vancouver estate, Darius wakes to find himself in an alternate reality of his life. Is he dreaming? Was his other life a dream? What is going on?

     Waking up in his childhood home, Darius (now simply Darren Zegers) is still almost eighteen, but he’s living with his mother and going to school with the friends he knew before dropping out to pursue stardom. The problem is, he doesn’t remember what he did yesterday or last week. Feeling like he’s living someone else’s life, Darren does his best to blend in at school, but a few surprises and old realities await him.

     He is dating Susan Koh, a girl he had a crush on since he was 12 but pushed away because he let his rising fame get in the way. In this reality, they’ve been dating for two years, and Darren knows that he treated her unfairly in his other life. Another person Darren knows is Keir. In his rock life, Keir first tagged along as a friend who got too heavy into the drug scene, and so Darren fired him. In this life, Keir and Darren are somewhat friends, and Darren realizes that Keir struggles with mental health problems and that he shouldn’t have turned his back on Keir. In school, Darren is faced with the reality of his dyslexia that causes him to struggle with marks but doesn’t interfere with his ability to write excellent poetry and songs. In this life, Darren has written the same songs, but he hasn’t uploaded anything to YouTube, an action which was the turning point in his rock life.

     After talking with Keir, Darren realizes that the song he became famous for was actually written for Susan, but he was too shy to play it for her so he put in on YouTube. He and Keir plan to go to Susan’s house and play it for her outside her window. They think that playing the song for Susan might somehow get Darren back to normal and get rid of the amnesia. Darren does play the song for Susan, but nothing happens. Susan and Darren decide to go inside and watch a movie, but Darren is asleep long before the credits roll.

     The next morning, Darren opens his eyes and sees that he’s back in the game’s room of his estate. It was a dream! Or was it? Because Darius can’t get Susan out of his mind, he decides to text her even though, in this life, they haven’t been in contact for several years. Darius gets a call from Susan right after. They do know each other after all, but Susan is with Keir! Despite the changing reality, yet again, Darius helps Susan find Keir who has gone off his anxiety medication and is lost. The police find Keir just in time, and Darius knows that he’s probably saved Keir’s life.

     With all of the startling realizations, Darius knows that he wants to make changes in his life, changes that include taking charge of himself, getting help for his dad, quitting drinking and letting Keir live with him again. Although he can’t be with Susan, he does have a chance at a happier life.

     Prendegast’s hi lo novel is an interesting sci fi adventure that holds the reader’s interest from start to finish. The story shows the challenging side of the recording industry from the unique perspective of a teenager star. Pinch Me deals with many themes through the performance lens, including alcohol and drug abuse, groupies, dyslexia, broken relationships and the good and bad consequences of choices. Through the course of the novel, the protagonist is forced to reexamine his life, and it is through this reflection that he chooses to change his life for the better and help those around him.

     The protagonist makes several journeys through time, but, because of the way in which the novel is written, the time and place changes are easy to follow and add to its interest. Pinch Me would be an excellent read for struggling teenage boys who would be hooked by the music industry premise.

Highly Recommended.

Penta Ledger is a teacher librarian at Gravenhurst High School in Gravenhurst, ON.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
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ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.

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