Sub­ject to Change

Karen Nes­bitt
  • Review
By – November 9, 2017

Sub­ject to Change by Karen Nes­bitt | Jew­ish Book Coun­cil

Declan, a teenag­er liv­ing in a small town in Que­bec, has some seri­ous fam­i­ly issues: His par­ents are divorced and he hasn’t seen his dad in five years, and his old­er broth­er Sea­mus is a mixed-up bul­ly who hangs around with a bad crowd. Mean­while, Declan has been doing poor­ly in school. After hav­ing a total of twen­ty-one deten­tions, Declan is forced by his high school to work with a peer tutor.

Leah, the tutor Declan is set up with, lives with her par­ents and her Bub­by,” her grand­moth­er, who is a sur­vivor of There­sien­stadt. Much to his sur­prise, Declan starts to enjoy spend­ing time with Leah and her grand­moth­er, who shares with Declan her expe­ri­ences dur­ing World War II. The tutor­ing improves his per­for­mance in school, and Declan starts to devel­op a rela­tion­ship with Leah.

One day, Declan drops by his old­er sis­ter Kate’s place to see her and her young daugh­ter, Mandy, and dis­cov­ers his dad vis­it­ing them. Unbe­knownst to Declan, Kate had reestab­lished a rela­tion­ship with their father. We dis­cov­er that Declan’s father is gay and that the divorce was pre­cip­i­tat­ed by his affair with a man. Slow­ly, Declan starts to under­stand his father bet­ter and gets over his homo­pho­bia. He also begins to under­stand why his broth­er, Sea­mus, has been act­ing out since the divorce.

This debut nov­el is writ­ten in first per­son, which height­ens the story’s imme­di­a­cy. The char­ac­ters are real­is­tic and sym­pa­thet­ic. The book con­tains strong lan­guage and depicts pot smok­ing, but the sto­ry rings true and the read­er roots for Declan as he becomes more mature. Read­ers ages 13 and up will enjoy this sto­ry of a boy who faces his prob­lems with the help of fam­i­ly and friends.

Noreen Wachs is the librar­i­an at Ramaz Mid­dle School in New York City. She received her library degree from the Hebrew Uni­ver­si­ty of Jerusalem. She is the trea­sur­er of the New York chap­ter of the Asso­ci­a­tion of Jew­ish Librar­i­ans and has been an active mem­ber of that organization.

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