CM Magazine Review - Fight for Justice
Reviewed by: Ruth Sands
Lori Saigeon's Fight For Justice starts as 10-year-old Justice Stoneyplain heads to the corner store for his post-chore Saturday treats. As Justice approaches the store, he is confronted by a group of kids led by a boy from his own school. Trey seems to have something against Justice and starts calling him names and being generally unpleasant. Justice is able to come out of the encounter physically unscathed, but his shopping pleasure is destroyed as he realizes that his twin sister will be passing by the same group of kids. Soon after his encounter, Justice's sister, Charity, does have a run-in with the bullies, but she is terrified that naming them will cause even more troubles. Justice resolves that he is the man of the family and it is up to him to deal with the situation. Unfortunately, his actions of revenge and then, later, retaliation only make the situation worse, and Justice finds that he is feeling worse with every action he takes. After Justice is involved in a fight at school, his mother takes the family out to the reservation to see her parents, Justice's Mushum and Kokum. It is while spending time with his grandfather and a grumpy neighbour that Justice starts to realize that there may be a reason that Trey behaves the way he does that has nothing to do with Justice. Once back home, Justice's mother gives him the answer to his bullying problem, and he is finally able to stand up to Trey and his friends. Bullying is a topic that is tough for kids to talk about, and, as much as parents, teachers and other authority figures want to help kids, they are often without the tools to do so. Saigeon's book may be a start. She has created believable characters, in a realistic setting, with some real world answers for the problem of bullying. Justice is a sincere character with whom readers, male and female alike, will identify. Saigeon has done a credible job portraying both the bully and the victim. Trey seems unreasonable, unswayable and scary, and readers are left feeling as helpless as Justice and Charity. In Justice, readers understand what it is like to be bullied - they feel the powerlessness and anger of the picked-on. As the story progresses readers are given glimpses of Trey's home life and a gradual understanding of the life of a bully. Saigeon eventually gives the reader solid solutions for dealing with the bully, without an unrealistic ending. What adds to the book's strength is that all the important adults in the story are revealed to be just as unsure and as flawed as the children. Readers see the adult bully in Vance's father, the unwillingness to make things worse in Justice's mother, and the occasional ill-thought-out action in Justice's Mushum. All the adults have really once been where the children are now, and this gives them a much more authoritative voice than if they appeared as perfect people. Added to the whole theme of bullying is a strong portrayal of the grandparents and life on the reservation. Justice clearly loves his roots and his Mushum and Kokum and presents a very positive image for the urban child. He loves what the elders have to teach him and is very excited about sharing his knowledge and heritage with his fellow classmates. Having Justice do a presentation in class about his favourite place in Canada, the reservation, really helps to bring his character alive. Saigeon has done a wonderful job tackling the issue of bullying while bringing to life a very realistic boy in Justice Stoneyplain. Highly Recommended. Ruth Sands is a freelance writer from Vancouver, BC.