August 13, 2013

The Throne

by Beth Goobie
Red Deer Press
281 pp.
Ages 14+
June 2013

Most of us know where we would like to sit in a room, whether a movie theatre, a concert hall, an auditorium or a classroom.  There are always advantages and disadvantages to every location, and it just depends on what's most important to you.  When fifteen-year-old Meredith Polk arrives first to her high school homeroom, the school's music room with tiered seating, at the beginning of her Grade 10 year, she selects the prime spot behind the drums on the uppermost tier.  Unfortunately, in a homeroom of multiple grades, Seymour Molyneux, a senior in Grade 12, has already co-opted The Throne for himself, at least in his own mind.

As Meredith maintains her daily claim to the throne, regardless of the cautions i.e., veiled threats from Seymour and repeated incidents of gum ending up on her backside, she continues to be friendly to everyone, including Seymour's class cohorts, Grade 11 students Morey and Gene.  But as the gum attacks continue, forcing her to wear a rain hat across her backside and then find another recourse, Meredith learns the extent of Seymour's network and those willing to do his bidding.  Moreover, she begins to question her need to keep the throne and delves into the details of her parents' deaths when she was 5.  Living with her mother's sister, Sancy Goonhilly, Meredith gets a very biased perspective about her father and the Polk family, the founders of their town.  Aunt Sancy is relentless in her criticism of the Polks and their apparent arrogance and hunger for power, which Meredith begins to see in herself.  Is she like her parents?  Is the throne just a seat or is she really out for power?  If so, is she any different from Seymour?

Beth Goobie knows her way around a teen's mind, as evidenced by her award-winning YA fiction, including Before Wings (Orca, 2001), winner of the 2001 Canadian Library Association's Young Adult Book of the Year.  She has created a young teen who just wants to "take up space" and be recognized by her peers and others as existing in their sphere, a common want of teens looking for their place in the world.  Without her parents and deferring to her Aunt Sancy's perspective, Meredith needs something or someone to which or whom she may become tethered.  Her best friends Reb and Dean are supportive,  but they're only Grade 10 girls too.  Justifiably, Beth Goobie has Meredith looking to clarify her connection to her parents (beyond their framed wedding portrait), resulting in her recognition of the parallels between Seymour's influence and the leverage of the Polk family.  Perhaps she learns more than she wants to about her family, but with that knowledge comes the strength to stand up for herself, the wisdom to appreciate what supports she does have in her life, and the concession that power is a commodity that reinforces partisanship.  As long as there are thrones to which some aspire, there will be chairs.

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