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crush.candy.corpse: What really happened in the forty-first hour? by S. McNicoll

McNicoll, Sylvia. crush.candy.corpse: What really happened in the forty-first hour? Toronto: James Lorimer & Co. Ltd, 2012. Print.

Sunny is sixteen and is accused of the manslaughter of a woman with Alzheimer’s whom she had met as a volunteer at a senior’s home. Sunny, named so by her own grandmother, has two pink strips in the front of her hair and an attitude that is not appreciated by the supervisor at Paradise Manor. Sunny's attitude extends to her choice of boyfriend and to ignoring her parents’ request that she not see him after they are caught shoplifting. Sunny's immigrant parents work long hours managing a condo. Occasionally, Sunny helps out at the condo office but she would prefer to work at Salon Teo as a hairdresser. Sunny and her family are also dealing with her mother’s ongoing treatment of a cancer. These issues create the path that leads Sunny to her arrest for manslaughter.  Sunny is hurt and frightened; she is confused and defiant as she begins her compulsory forty volunteer hours in order to graduate from high school.

Sunny is a realistic and believable protagonist experiencing authentic events and responding with genuine reactions. As we review each visit to Paradise Manor in Sunny’s required English journal and through the events of the trial, we witness the changes that many teens experience as they mature. Her relationships with the victim’s grandson, the victim and the other residents at the Manor change as she progresses through her forty hour sentence. Sunny’s frank opinions, spontaneous reactions and often caring participation in Manor bingo, birthday parties and funerals show us the true nature of her being.

Sunny develops a crush and becomes close to a fellow volunteer whose grandmother is a resident at Paradise Manor.  This relationship hovers around her while she volunteers and helps her come to terms with the loss of her own grandmother and creates the dilemma of choosing between the boy at the manor and the one she is secretly dating.

Some readers like myself may hesitate to select a book about an Alzheimer’s ward, but this reasoning will be unfounded, even when the issue of euthanasia intrudes on the experiences of the two young volunteers. The subject is dealt with honestly and with a genuine understanding of the patients, the families and the caregivers. My own experience with the disease rang true in this story. Even young readers without the experience of living with Alzheimer's disease can relate to and understand Sunny's experiences at Paradise Manor. Without burdening the reader with Canadian justice system legal jargon and procedure, we experience the trial as an equal companion to Sunny's narrative and her journal entries.

McNicoll is the author of twenty-seven books and five award-winning titles including Bringing up Beauty. crush.candy.corpse is nominated for the Ontario Library Association Red Maple Award 2013.

Highly Recommended: 4 out of 4 stars
Reviewer: Leslie Holwerda

Leslie Holwerda is a teacher-librarian/literacy coach at Lougheed Middle School in Brampton Ontario. She has been a teacher-librarian for ten years and loves reading, selecting and recommending books for readers. She is especially interested in encouraging reluctant readers to pick up and read books no matter the genre, topic or format. The opportunity to motivate readers with e-books and reading apps in the school library is an exciting prospect.