August 27, 2019

Double Trouble (Orca Currents)

Written by Joanne Levy
Orca Book Publishers
132 pp.
Ages 9-12
August 2019 

While many of us display different personalities depending on the circumstances–reserved, outgoing, chatterbox, leader, etc.–Victoria Adelman takes it to a whole different level when she meets Jazzy, the granddaughter of her neighbours and a potential new best friend. She actually becomes her own twin.

With her best friend Anna having moved away, Victoria fills her time cultivating her organic garden, feeding her family–her Dad and grandmother Bubby–and their neighbours and tending to her compost. But when she meets the Patels' granddaughter Jasvitha (Jazzy) shortly upon returning home from synagogue, Jazzy gets the impression that Victoria likes fashion and dressing up. Later when she spots Victoria wearing her grubby gardening clothes and working with her worm bin, Jazzy apparently does not recognize her and keeps asking for Vicky. Victoria, desperate for a friend, pretends to be Tori, Vicky's twin sister, and launches the charade of switching between the garden-loving Tori and the fashionista Vicky, depending on when she sees Jazzy.

But you know things cannot go smoothly when you attempt to deceive and must alter your personality and dress for one person and keep all the others in the dark.
I suddenly felt guilty. Because not only had I made up a sister, but now I was trash-talking her. To the girl I'd lied to. (pg. 68-69)
From a trip to the Royal Botanical Gardens with Mr. and Mrs. Patel and Jazzy, and a shopping trip with Bubby and Jazzy, Victoria is torn between being herself and the person she thinks will win her a new friend in Jazzy.  And then there's the sleepover which Jazzy expects to have with Tori and Vicky. Will it all blow up for Victoria or will she get the friend she is desperate to have?

While Joanne Levy has brought us stories with extraordinary circumstances (see Small Medium at Large, 2012), she does equally well with middle-grade stories that are typical of most young people. Whether it's friendships or family, bat mitzvahs or first crushes (Crushing It, 2017 and Yael and the Party of the Year, 2018, writing as Tamsin Lane), Joanne Levy brings the humour to everyday ups and downs in a middle-grader's life. Moreover, she gets that eagerness to be accepted by your peers, when you'd try just about anything to be liked. The farce that becomes Victoria's life is so representational that I could imagine a young reader wondering if they could pull off faking being twins too. (My advice based on Victoria's experience: Don't.)

Readers will enjoy the ridiculousness of Victoria's deception, which is never spiteful nor mean-spirited, and the farcical scenes of her attempting to pretend to be both Vicky and Tori in this short, hi-lo novel. Still, fortunately, they'll be left with the honest message that self-acceptance will always triumph over pretending to be someone you're not, though you might get a few laughs, plus some heartache, along the way if you do.

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