Wednesday 5 March 2014

The One and Only Jack Chant

The One and Only Jack Chant by Rosie Borella (Allen and Unwin)
PB RRP $15.99
ISBN 978-1-74331-138-7
Reviewed by Ann Harth

The One and Only Jack Chant grabbed me from the start. The prologue introduces Jack as he practices his routine on the back of a circus pony in the big top. He is enjoying the thrill of competence and connecting with his horse when the circus master challenges him to learn a spectacular but dangerous feat.

We leave Jack at the circus and land in Tranquil Banks Nursing Home where 16-year-old Amber is showering a difficult resident under the scrutiny of an assessor. She passes the test and lands a full-time job as an aide during her gap year. Amber is good at her job and treats the old people with warmth and respect. She forms friendships with her co-workers and they do their best to keep the residents happy, safe and fed with little help from the stingy owner.

Jack re-enters the scene, mysteriously appearing at the nursing home. He comes and goes without warning until Amber finds him camping beside the river on her family’s property. He seems to be everywhere and come from nowhere, recalling little of his haunted history. His strange clothing and odd accent do little to shed any light on his past.

Amber is captivated by Jack, wanting to believe he is simply a boy recovering from a traumatic event but knowing there is more to his story than it seems. To add to her confusion, when Amber touches Jack she is sucked into his thoughts and finds herself immersed in his memories – feeling, seeing and experiencing them as though she is inside his skin. As time passes, Amber learns that Jack is on an important mission but the details are vague, even to Jack.

The situation unfolds with as many twists and turns as a roller coaster and had me guessing until I reached the unpredictable climax.

Readers, aged 13-16, will devour this book as they will identify closely with Amber and enjoy the emotional ride that Rosie Borella has created. The One and Only Jack Chant is a book to revisit many times to find the subtle hints that point toward a stunning ending.

Rosie Borella has written and edited non-fiction for many years. Writing fiction is a more recent venture and her short story, Eternity, was included in the Tales from the Tower Collection. She writes at home in rural Victoria. The One and Only Jack Chant is her first novel.

Ann Harth is a published children's author, freelance editor, ghostwriter and writing teacher at Australian College of Journalism. She loves to read and is committed to creating children's literature that inspires, entertains and triggers a tiny twist in the mind. Her latest middle-grade novel, The Art of Magic, is now available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble. 

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