September 18, 2019

Spin

Written by Colleen Nelson
Dundurn
978-1-45974-496-7
296 pp.
Ages 12-15
August 2019

 
Fifteen-year-old Delilah Doucette, affectionately called Dizzy by her father Ray and brother Lou, has had music around her her whole life. Her dad once toured as a saxophone player and now owns a record store called The Vinyl Trap. And her mother? Her mother is the famous singer Georgia Waters. Or at least Georgia Hay is, giving birth to both Lou and Dizzy before she chose to abandon them with Ray and embrace a life of touring and celebrity. Since leaving when Dizzy was one-year-old and Lou was four, Georgia has only seen them once in fourteen years. Still,
She might have escaped us, but we couldn't escape her. (pg. 10)
While Lou, already graduated from high school and working at the store, promoting it on social media and arranging special events, struggles with what he wants to do with his life, Dizzy is still in school and knows what she wants. For her, it's all about spinning and mixing music. The store may be an anchor for both, but for Lou it feels like it may drown him while for Dizzy, it's her foundation. And for Ray, it gives him the opportunity to continue with his music, sharing it with others, jamming with friends Donnie, Rudy, Barney and Big Tom, and providing for his family.

After Dizzy opens for DJ Erika at one of the store's Friday Night Spin DJ nights, she is advised to tell a story with her music to make more of an impact. Unbeknown to her family, she uses some private and forgotten recordings from when Ray and Georgia were first together in a mix that she uploads to her Mixcloud account. That mix and a choice to see Georgia in concert in the city leads Dizzy to turn her back on a promise she and her brother had made to their father to never reveal their mother's identify.

As both Dizzy and Lou search for the path that is right for them, Dizzy through her music and potential connection with her mother and Lou slipping into university English lectures and crushing on a fellow student Olivia, Ray tries to hold onto his love of music in any way he can and do what is right for his children. Whether that will be with or without Georgia will depend on how things play out.

Telling the story in Spin through the voices of Dizzy, Lou and Ray, Colleen Nelson creates one firmly rooted in perspectives. Three family members are all looking at the same circumstances–the abandonment of the family by the mother–and revealing different takes on her and her choices. From curiosity to anger, resignation and confusion, the Doucette family sees Georgia as an enigma. Whether she's as Lou sees her...
Georgia had had her chance ten years ago and she'd left us on the table. Forgotten leftovers from a life she didn't want. (pg. 33)
...or the potential celebrity mom that Dizzy craves or the love Ray once had, Georgia has chosen to be what she wanted and not necessarily what others wanted of her. And how they have reacted to her choice is what makes Spin a great story of family. It's not a straightforward story but then most families aren't.  They're complicated and messy and nurturing and debilitating in their own ways and Colleen Nelson knows this. (Read The Fall, 250 Hours, Finding Hope, and Blood Brothers for a good sampling of great stories about family.) Colleen Nelson excels at putting families in all their configurations out front and exposed, never judging their frailties or flaws, only revealing for the purpose of demonstrating that
It's how you go forward from your past 
that makes you who you are. (pg. 138)
Whether teen or adult, child or parent, the characters in Spin, including secondary characters like the homeless Leroy and Dizzy's best friend Maya, do move forward, choosing to advance their own stories with the spin they've selected for themselves, all courtesy of Colleen Nelson's dynamic text and powerful narrative.

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