Children’s Book Reviews

Children's Book Reviews: Heartache and Other Natural Shocks

Publish June 16, 2016

In Glenda Leznoff’s debut novel, Heartache and Other Natural Shocks, fifteen-year-old Jules Epstein does not want to leave her life in Montreal. But the FLQ crisis heightens the tension that already exists between separatists and Anglophones in Quebec, and Jules – whose family is Jewish – is forced to move with her mother and brother to Toronto, leaving her father behind to tie up loose ends. In Toronto, the Epsteins move next door to the Cabrielli family, whose sixteen-year-old daughter, Carla, takes an instant dislike to Jules. Where Jules is awkward, book-ish and introverted, Carla is popular and feisty, from a flamboyant Italian family. As Jules struggles to find her place in unfamiliar surroundings, she is drawn to a fellow newcomer, Ian Slater, a pot-smoking, motorbike-riding bad boy with haunting, wolfish eyes. But Jules soon realizes that she will be competing with Carla for Ian’s attention, as well as the plum role of Gertrude in their high school’s production of Hamlet. Even worse, Jules begins to suspect that her parents’ separation is more than just a temporary arrangement. With turmoil at school and at home, Jules summons the courage to fight back and discovers that Carla – her worst enemy – might be the only person able to help her. Set amid the social and political turbulence of Toronto in 1971, Leznoff’s novel is a love letter to another era, where women found their voices amid the second wave feminist movement, but love lives were still dictated by social conventions and Cosmopolitan articles. Leznoff’s background in film and theatre shines through in vivid staging, intricate fight scenes, and impeccable comic timing. With narration that alternates between Carla and Jules, who endear as often as they infuriate, Heartache and Other Natural Shocks is an empowering novel about girls becoming women, and women coming into their own.

Heartache and Other Natural Shocks

Glenda Leznoff
Tundra Books, Penguin Random House of Canada
ISBN 13: 978-1-77049-836-5

Karen Doerksen
Karen Doerksen Karen Doerksen lives in Sherwood Park, Alberta with her husband and four children. She works for the Edmonton Public Library, and holds a master’s degree in Library and Information Studies from the University of Alberta.  

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