A Review of Meeting Chance by Jennifer LaVoie
Bold Strokes Books, 2013
by REBECCA, December 23, 2013
Y’all, it was an apocalyptic 67 degrees here in Philly yesterday, so I thought I’d go with a summer book for today’s review, even though the weather called for a list of Snow Day Reads a mere week ago.
Aaron Cassidy was attacked by a dog when he was a kid, leaving him with visible scars and a deep-seated phobia of dogs. After he gets his driver’s license, though, he decides to conquer his fear by volunteering at the local animal shelter. There, he meets two new friends: Finn, a volunteer who supports Aaron when his other friends have ditched him, and Chance, a pit bull whose scars mirror Aaron’s own. With Finn’s help, Aaron sets about overcoming his fears and learning that sometimes the things we fear are the things that we need the most.
At base, Meeting Chance is a really sweet book about a guy learning to overcome a fear and have compassion for what caused that fear. When Aaron first shows up at the animal shelter even the sound of a dog barking sends him into fits of terror. Little by little, fellow volunteer (and crush) Finn gets Aaron comfortable around puppies and able to be in the same room with dogs. When the police drop off a pit bull that they rescued from being attacked by other dogs, Aaron reacts with fear at first, but quickly identifies with the dog, who he names Chance, and comes to love love love him.
So, on that level, Meeting Chance succeeds. But that’s not quite enough to sustain a novel-length read, and Meeting Chance feels rather thin. This is something that I’ve found with Bold Strokes Books‘ young adult publications in general. Still, Jennifer Lavoie’s first book, Andy Squared, although the exact same length (a short 264 pages), had better character development and thus felt much more substantial.
For example, there is a sub-plot that involves Aaron’s relationship with his friends. Aaron came out to his parents and friends a while ago, and while his folks didn’t give him any grief about being gay, his two best friends were pretty freaked out and they haven’t been close ever since. Soon after Aaron starts volunteering, one of his ex-buds begins to bully one of the other kids in Aaron’s gay-straight alliance and rejects Aaron explicitly. Lavoie uses this situation to draw a parallel between Aaron getting over his fear of dogs and Aaron’s friends getting over their freaked-outness about him being gay. Aaron’s friends aren’t very well-drawn characters, though, so, in addition to the parallel plot feeling a bit contrived, I found myself hoping that Aaron would just dump them because, homophobia aside, they were both boring and one was a jerk.
But I think it’s really a question of categorization; that is, I think Meeting Chance is simply better suited for a younger audience. If I think of it as a book for high school freshman instead of an audience that’s the same age as Aaron and Finn (a junior and a senior) then it’s more successful. Finn was a more developed character, and the inner workings of the shelter were interesting. Overall, a sweet read for a young reader who loves dogs.
Starting From Here by Lisa Jenn Bigelow (2012). Colby’s mom died two years ago, her girlfriend just dumped her, and her long-haul trucker dad is never home. When a dog is hit by a car right in front of her, Colby rushes to save it, and realizes that even though she’s afraid to have her heart broken again, maybe loving someone else is exactly what she needs. My full review of Starting From Here is HERE and our interview with author Lisa Jenn Bigelow is HERE.
procured from: I received an ARC this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Meeting Chance by Jennifer Lavoie is available now.