Winnipeg Free Press Review - 250 Hours

CHILDREN'S: Reserve life explored in Nelson's newest
Reviewed by: Helen Norrie

Winnipeg writer Colleen Nelson found success with her first two young adult novels, Tori By Design and The Fall, which won McNally Robinson Book of the Year for Young People in 2012 and 2014 respectively. Her latest offering, 250 Hours (Coteau Books, 152 pages, $13, paperback), written for a slightly younger audience, explores an important, current subject: the effect of the residential-school experience on the lives of First Nation families.

Sara Jean lives in a small Manitoba town and feels trapped by the responsibility of caring for her sick grandmother. Jess lives on a reserve just outside of town and has been ordered to do 250 hours of community service because he was caught setting fires. He also feels trapped by his compulsion to use flame to erase his anger at a father who deserted him, and by townspeople who treat him with contempt. These two unlikely teens meet when Jess is ordered to clean out Sara Jean's grandmother's garage. Boxes they discover reveal unexpected secrets that influence both their lives.

Nelson's characters are convincing and her subject matter important, but the book seems unfinished. What does the future hold for Jess? Is Sara Jean's relationship with Jess strictly a fleeting attraction? Will her new chapter in life turn out well?

Perhaps Nelson is planning a sequel to 250 Hours to answer our questions.

 

This article originally appeared in the Winnipeg Free Press. To read the full article, click here.

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