December 16, 2011


by Valerie Sherrard
Dundurn Press
142 pp.

Dundurn's newly established Keystone Hi-Lo series hits the mark with Accomplice by Valerie Sherrard, enticing readers with a cover suggestive of a female criminal, a less likely combo than you might expect.  Our covergirl, fifteen-year-old Lexie Malton, starts her story with her arrest, and spends the remainder describing the circumstances by which she ends up nestled in a sheriff's van.

The story is fairly simple: Lexie gets her boyfriend, Devlin, to go to a party where she is enticed into trying heroin and encourages the reluctant Devlin to follow.  Unlike her, Devlin becomes addicted, eventually ending up on the street.  Though Lexie eventually moves on and starts going out with Oscar, her overwhelming guilt at her role in turning a great guy into a junkie continues to compel her to get what little money she can for Devlin whenever he calls.  Regardless of Devlin's insistence that he's going to stop the drugs and get clean, even returning to rehab, he thoughtlessly wrenches Lexie into a brutal situation that results in a death and Lexie marked as an accomplice.

The mandate of Hi-Lo books, i.e., grabbing the reader with its engrossing plot without dissuading reading with challenging vocabulary, can result in uninspired writing around a weak storyline.  However, in the hands of an accomplished writer such as Valerie Sherrard, most recently winner of the 2011 Geoffrey Bilson Historical Fiction for Young People Award for The Glory Wind (Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 2010), there is no chance of mediocrity.  Accomplice presents a straightforward but not light-weight plot involving common teen trials dealing with curiosity about drugs, discriminating between right and wrong, dating and communicating, and accepting responsibility.  More than just a hi-lo read, Accomplice provides a glimpse into how innocent errors in judgement can produce unfathomable consequences.

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