Sunday, February 25, 2007

Lullabies for Little Criminals - Heather O'Neill

The Basics: Lullabies for Little Criminals, Heather O'Neill, 2006, 330 pages, paperback, nominated for CBC's Canada reads 2007

How I found it: I am slowly working my way through the Canada Reads 2007 nominees list.

What's it about?: This is a coming of age novel. The protagonist, who's given name is actually Baby, has to grow up fairly quickly on the streets of Montreal. She lives in poverty with her junkie father and struggles to figure out what it means to not to a child anymore, to find friends, and to tell right from wrong. The book is written from her perspective at her twelve-year-old reading level, so at my library it was marked as a young adult book. However, I think that most kids reading this book would be quite scared.

Did I like it?: I liked this book on some levels because it opened my eyes to the situations that many children in poverty face. Growing up in a stable middle class home it is easy to say that people who area addicted to drugs, living on the street, and turning tricks are a lower class of people. Canadians love to distance themselves from our urban poor. O'Neill's novel humanizes this group and helps the reader to understand why poverty is cyclical. In a better off home, a tween child who is as unhappy as Baby would be sent to counselling, or encouraged to spend time with family. In Baby's world, when she is unhappy her solutions are drugs, sex and violence. I thought this would be something I wouldn't relate to, but somehow, O'Neill made me understand why Baby did the things she did.

Will you like it?: This book is probably nominated for Canada Reads to make us think about the situation of impoverished Canadians, and the book certainly does do that. However, it is a good read on its own. I didn't love it, and I think some of the other choices for Canada Reads are more deserving. If you are a parent, I think you might enjoy reading this book because (I assume) it will make you feel like you are doing a great job in comparison to the parents in this book. And if you aren't a parent, you can at least read this book and feel lucky to have escaped a life like Baby's.

But don't take my word for it: the usual collection of literary reviews and info from Amazon, a glowing reader review, a review from KGB Bar's online lit magazine, one from Dose Magazine (not to be confused with Dose the newspaper apparently), one from Toronto's Now Magazine, and an interview with the author.

1 comment:

  1. Taryn, this is actually next up on my reading list. It's sitting on my bookshelf taunting me. I will however confess to having picked it up because it was:

    1) On the Canada Reads list
    2) Picked by John K. Samson for Canada Reads