Kris: In the not-too-distant future, American refugees stream into Canada, populating shelters and dilapidated warehouses. Racial tension, skittish police, a powerful elevator operators’ union and flying teens are all factors in the skewed reality of Your Secrets Sleep With Me by Darren O’Donnell (Coach House Books). The story concerns Rani, Michael, James, Kaliope and Ruth, a group of kids who all speak, act and think the same way whether they are eight or sixteen. But in our era of homogeneous realistic novels, it’s refreshing to step into unstable territory, where ideas matter more than the work of overcoming childhood issues, and an obtrusive narrator makes sure you never quite suspend disbelief. Society is fracturing in Your Secrets Sleep With Me: the CN Tower topples into Lake Ontario, James’s messianic abilities are ignored and the Chinese orphan Xiang is kidnapped by Arctic ice. Here and there O’Donnell tries too hard to be self-aware and provocative, but at least he’s trying to do something different. I was drawn in by this world of metaphor-turned-real and Eastern influences, where the desire to blend and blur boundaries between people, their thoughts and their environment makes it hard to know where you leave off and something else begins.
Patty: All the adults in Darren O’Donnell’s vision of the future are either physically or mentally absent, a device that I have enjoyed in other books and in movies, but O’Donnell’s children have none of the energy or humour of real kids. Instead they move through the world thinking and talking too much and not experiencing the emotions that make us pay attention. I had trouble telling the characters apart and there was very little action to follow. About two-thirds of the way through, I gave a big sigh and flipped to the end just in case the last chapter redeemed the story. It didn’t. Your Secrets Sleep With Me feels like a play rather than a novel, and it lacks the personalities that live actors add to written words.