by Lesley Choyce
Orca Book Publishers
At 15 short chapters and a mere 113 pages, and a story plotted by Lesley Choyce (see my reviews of Jeremy Stone and Into the Wasteland from Red Deer Press, 2013 and 2014 respectively), Scam is a valuable addition to Orca Book Publishers' Orca Soundings series of hi-lo books for teens with a story that explores the resiliency of youth.
Scam begins with sixteen-year-old narrator Josh Haslett dealing with the death of his mother. Josh has always thought of himself as a “good cover-up artist” (pg. 3) as he had taken care of the household after his dad left and mom had continued to party and do drugs and he had kept social workers oblivious to their situation. But on the way to his mom’s funeral, as arranged by social work, Josh is scammed of his paltry wallet by a beautiful teen named Lindsey. Frantic, he chases after her and gets his wallet back but she insists on going to the funeral with him.
As Josh is taken into a group home with other male teens, he continues to meet up with Lindsey who involves Josh in a number of scams, including the theft of wedding gifts, while insisting that she can teach him how to take his own efforts of working the system to the next level. But Josh knows the difference between survival and cheating others, and he is as uncomfortable with her scamming as much as he is drawn to her. After helping out at a camp for disadvantaged kids and providing Lindsey with the emotional support she needs after a death in her own family, Josh realizes that somethings that seem very tenous can be very real, even if fleeting.
Lesley Choyce capably gets into the heads of young people, whether they be dealing with dysfunctional families, drugs, mental health or just growing up. In Scam, Lesley Choyce takes on the issues of grief and trust, and demonstrates that we all need a little help sometimes and that the help can come from the unlikeliest of sources, even those in which we don’t always have confidence.