Author Tags: Downtown Eastside, Fiction, Kidlit & Young Adult
From Barbies to barbarism... One starless night the Beckoners come for Zoe. They drive her out to Mill Lake and in the corner of the bandstand, in the flame of a butane torch, they heat a fork, the handle wrapped in a wad of masking tape so it won’t get too hot to hold. When the tines turn orange and Zoe silently, desperately lists the constellations she cannot see—Ursa Major, Orion, Andromeda—they press the glowing fork to the flesh of her inner right arm and brand her. Now she’s one of them. But 14-year-old Zoe Anderson’s ordeal has only begun. She’s about to discover victim and tormentor are not easily defined and how quickly the two become flipsides of the same coin.
In The Beckoners (Orca $19.95), a first novel by Carrie Mac, who was working as a child and youth advocate at a first stage transition house on the Sunshine Coast when she wrote it, Zoe is dragged from Prince George to Abbotsford by her restless, self-absorbed mother. On the second day of school, gay Simon takes Zoe out to the makeshift hut called the smoke hole and introduces her to Central High. “You’ve got your skids, your punks, pushers, users, Goths, slags, geeks, hippies, rejects and other standard garden variety misfits…” There’s also Teo, Simon’s boyfriend, with “muscles humming all over the place” and vicious Heather Arlington-Moore, Central’s “suicide queen.” Then there’s Rebecca “Beck” Wilson, burned with a fork by her own father. She’s the sly leader of The Beckoners, a “doesn’t matter if you beckon or not, they come calling when they want” girl gang. Zoe’s neighbour and classmate April, better known as Dog, is a friendless, stringy-haired Christian girl with a What-Would-Jesus-Do bracelet, and she makes for an easy target. “Beck” forces her to choke down fifty-two liver flavoured dog biscuits. She photocopies and enlarges entries from Dog’s stolen journal, and plasters Central High with a poster that reveals, in Dog’s own writing, her secret crush on Mr. Cromwell, the fat school counselor. Dog’s windows are smashed. She finds a grisly mannequin swinging from a noose in the apple tree below her room. As the torment escalates, Zoe is drawn deeper and deeper into the Beckoners. Until meek, long-suffering Dog seeks revenge, triggering a final, climatic act of violence. According to the Canadian Children's Book News, this story of girl gangs and bullying is "at once a social critique of modern society and a chilling reminder of what happens in high school when adults bury their heads in ignorance." The Beckoners was optioned for film by Slanted Wheel Entertainment of Toronto in 2005. It has received an Arthur Ellis Award and a White Ravens Award, it was named a CLA Honour Book and it received an International Reading Association Young Adult Choice citation.
In a somewhat similar vein, Mac’s second novel Charmed (2005), part of the Orca Soundings series for reluctant teen readers, deals with a drug-ridden teen named Izzy who is ensnared in a prostitution ring. It was followed by Crush (2006) [see review].
After three teen-oriented novels with Orca Books, she published the first novel in a fantasy trilogy for young adults, The Droughtlanders (Penguin, 2006), which gained her a cover story in Quill & Quire [June 2006]. Her Triskelia trilogy was completed with Retribution (2007) and Storm (2008)
Carrie Mac practices American sign language and kickboxing. She credits her own 'tortured youth' and her work in a transition house, as well as her work as an on-call paramedic in Vancouver, for her subject matter.
Featuring a paramedic, her novel Pain & Wastings (Orca 2007), referring to the intersection of Main & Hastings, includes details from a car accident she attended. "I steal directly from my patients," she told Quill & Quire, "in terms of details, traits and tragedies.... I know exactly what a beheaded head, open fractures, and blood seeping from the abdomen or intestines spilling onto the dirt look like."
Similarly, her novel The Gryphon Project was inspired by tending to a man whose ear was rubbed off by the highway during a motorcycle accident. This novel received the Sheila A. Egoff Children's Literature Prize in 2010.
Carrie Mac’s experiences in the Downtown Eastside continue to fuel her work. Homelessness, addiction, teen pregnancy and crime are the backdrop for her latest novel, The Way Back (Orca $9.95), in which Colby Wyatt is alone, homeless and addicted to Meth. Taken in by her friend Gigi’s grandma, she joins the family business, a pawnshop where Colby, Gigi and Gigi’s brother keep the shelves stocked by breaking into houses and stealing things. When Colby discovers she’s pregnant, she swears she’ll get clean, keep the baby and have a real family. Checking into rehab, Colby is determined to make things work and save Gigi at the same time, but sometimes no matter how much you want something, it doesn’t work out.
According to Carrie Mac's website, here is a synopsis of the The Opposite of Tidy: "Fifteen-year-old Junie is barely coping. Her mother has started sleeping in the chair in front of the TV, and the house is so packed with junk, newspapers, cupboard organizers and other helpful items from the Shopping Channel that she can barely get in the front door. Her father is no help, since he’s always with That Woman. To top it off, she’s failing math.
"So when Wade Jaffre, the hot new guy at school, offers her a ride home from school, it seems too good to be true. Junie surprises herself by accepting—and even talking! But as they approach her house, her parents are outside, screaming at each other. Junie doesn’t have to think twice about directing him on to her best friend Tabitha’s house, nor about continuing the charade of pretending she lives there.
"Tabitha and her mother are understanding—and willing to go along, for the moment. But as the weeks go by, Junie’s lies start piling up and the opportunity to tell the truth seems to slip away. Until the day Junie’s world—and her mother’s—is literally turned inside out for the world to see, and Junie and her mother must face the consequences of her mother’s illness … and the lies they both told to hide it."
The Beckoners (Orca, 2004). 1-55143-309-5
Charmed (Orca, 2005). 1-55143-321-4
Crush (Orca, 2006). 1-55143-521-7.
The Droughtlanders (Penguin, 2006).
Pain & Wastings (Orca 2007).
Retribution (Penguin 2007)
Storm (Penguin 2008).
The Gryphon Project (Penguin 2009).
Jacked (Orca, 2009).
The Opposite of Tidy (Penguin, 2012). 978-0-14-31891-3 $16.00
The Way Back (Orca 2014) $9.95 9781459807150
[BCBW 2014] "Kidlit" "Downtown Eastside" "Fiction"
Press Release (2005)
The Beckoners, a teen novel by Carrie Mac, has been chosen for The White Ravens 2005, the International Youth Library's annual selection of outstanding international books for children and young adults. The honor was presented at the Bologna Children's Book Fair. The books for this year's White Ravens, 250 titles in 31 languages from 48 countries, were selected from thousands of books received by the International Youth Library. The White Ravens are featured in a special publication, also launched at the Bologna Fair. The Beckoners has also been nominated for the CLA YA Book Award and the Crime Writers' of Canada Arthur Ellis Award.
The Beckoners, a teen novel by Carrie Mac, has been selected for the Internationao Reading Association IRA's 2006 Young Adult Choices list. The Beckoners also won the Arthur Ellis Award, was a CLA YA Canadian Book Award Honor Book and was an International Children's and Youth Literature White Raven in 2005.
Crush (Orca $9.95)
When her hippie parents head for Thailand to celebrate their 30th “non-wedding anniversary” by helping to build a school, 17-year-old Hope is banished to Brooklyn. The plan had been for her to remain at the Larchberry commune by herself. But getting caught naked in the hayloft with Orion, the tanned, hash-smoking, too-old, too-married Woofer (Workers on Organic Farms) changed all that. Now she’ll have to endure an entire summer living with her flaky older sister. But then Hope meets Nat, a lanky bicycle mechanic with blond dreadlocks and a firm, lingering handshake. “She holds onto my hand…maybe it’s a Brooklyn thing. She’s kind of gazing at me, in a weird way. Another weird thing—is that I don’t want her to let go.” Yup. Nat’s a girl. And Hope is hit with a sudden, bewildering crush. “Would kissing a girl be different from kissing boys? If all I did was kiss her, would that make me queer?” With motherly advice from a lesbian couple, a timely phone call from her parents and guidance from her “gaydar” Hope ultimately arrives at her own answers to her troubling questions. Crush is part of the Orca Soundings series for reluctant teen readers. Vancouver writer Carrie Mac’s first contribution to the series was Charmed, a story of teen prostitution. She is also winner of an Arthur Ellis Award for her gritty teen novel The Beckoners. “I’m equally fascinated by disaster and grace,” she says. “Car wrecks, hurricanes, plagues, genocides on one hand. Small and stunning everyday miracles on the other.” 1-55143-526-8
-- review by Louise Donnelly who writes from Vernon.
[BCBW 2006] "Kidlit"
In Pain & Wastings (Orca $9.95)
from Louise Donnelly
In Pain & Wastings, Carrie Mac, a paramedic who’s worked Vancouver’s darker side, continues the trademark grit and grind of Charmed, Crush, and The Beckoners. In this latest book for reluctant teen-readers fifteen-year-old Ethan is stunned to discover the ambulance station is right in the middle of the Downtown Eastside. He’d willingly agreed to the ride-along in the ambulance but suddenly the alternative to going to court for breaking into an amusement park isn’t looking so cushy. It’s not the area’s notoriety for “drugs and prostitutes and poverty and violence” that’s got him spooked. It’s that Main and Hastings, or Pain and Wastings as it’s more accurately called, is only a few blocks away. He doesn’t want to remember what happened there, all those years ago, but as the twelve-hour shifts drag on and Holly, the paramedic, lets on she knew his mother, the demons descend.
Nominated for The Gryphon Project
BC Book Prizes (2010)
from BC Book Prizes catalogue
Phoenix envies her brother Gryphon. The daredevil and sports hero has all of his recons left: three more chances at life. But she is left with only one, and learns that her beloved brother is responsible for one of her deaths. When Gryphon himself has an accident, the governing body Chrysalis refuses to recon him, deeming his death to be a suicide. His friends’ code of silence makes it difficult to find out what happened, but Phoenix is determined to unravel the mystery and save her brother. Carrie Mac is the author of nine novels including Charmed, Crush, the Triskelia series and Pain & Wastings. Her novel The Beckoners won the Arthur Ellis YA Award, is a CLA Honour book, and has been optioned for film. She was raised in small-town British Columbia and now lives in Vancouver.
The Way Back by Carrie Mac (Orca $9.95)
from BCBW (Autumn)
Carrie Mac’s experiences in the Downtown Eastside continue to fuel her work. Homelessness, addiction, teen pregnancy and crime are the backdrop for her latest novel, The Way Back, in which Colby Wyatt is alone, homeless and addicted to meth. Taken in by her friend Gigi’s grandma, she joins the family business, a pawnshop where Colby, Gigi and Gigi’s brother keep the shelves stocked by breaking into houses and stealing things. When Colby discovers she’s pregnant, she swears she’ll get clean, keep the baby and have a real family. Checking into rehab, Colby is determined to make things work and save Gigi at the same time, but sometimes no matter how much you want something, it doesn’t work out. Carrie Mac’s previous book was The Opposite of Tidy from Penguin Books. She has now released eleven titles in ten years.