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#161 Loving in a fog

August 30th, 2017

REVIEW: The Most Dangerous Thing

by Leanne Lieberman

Victoria: Orca Book Publishers, 2017



Reviewed by Carol Anne Shaw



Sixteen-year-old Sydney lives in and out of the Fog — a word she uses to describe the smothering depression and anxiety that so often takes hold of her. But she’s trying; she really is, and most of the time she can keep things under control.

Sydney’s life is growing more and more complicated, and lately, the Fog has changed from paltry to pea soup. Why can’t things just be easy? And why is the entire world so preoccupied with sex?

Take Abby, for example, Sydney’s outgoing sister; she’s staging her version of The Vagina Monologues for a school drama project. Why does she have to be so “out there”? It’s so embarrassing!

And then there’s Zeyda, Sydney’s cranky and misunderstood grandfather. She’s got to keep her eye on him. After all, Bubbie, her grandmother, recently passed away. Who can blame her Zeyda for being so crotchety? But while he’s old and lonely, he regains his spark when Syd comes to visit — particularly when he shares tips about the stock market with her.

But the biggest problem is Paul, a boy at school who Sydney has known for a long time. He’s really nice, makes Syd’s heart cartwheel, and seems to want more than just a friendship. But Sydney doesn’t know the first thing about dating; she’s never even kissed a boy! Still, she really likes Paul, and the sudden rush of feelings she begins to experience throws her completely off balance.

One minute she finds herself growing closer to Paul, and the next, she is retreating. Wanting a boy in this new way is pretty scary, not to mention totally confusing!

Lieberman’s portrayal of a teenager’s sexual awakening is done realistically and with great sensitivity. Her forthright way of tackling the issue of mental illness is spot on. I also enjoyed the special relationship Syd shares with her grandfather, Zeyda, as well as her strong connection to her immediate family; also the attention given to certain Jewish traditions and customs.  I learned a little more about Passover, not to mention a few Yiddish words.

While Sydney does learn coping strategies, and is able eventually to utilize the resources available to her, Lieberman makes it clear that depression and anxiety are simply a part of who Sydney is.

There is no access to a magic eraser or to a wonder pill, but with courage and support, we learn we can all accept our individual challenges and even rise above them. Our struggles are part, but not all, of who we are.

This book felt very real to me — accurate in its emotional content. Its voice is poignant and believable. It reminded me of how perplexing it felt to fall in love for the first time.

I must also high-five Leanne Lieberman for the wonderful way she addresses the issue of female desire; it’s done in a way that feels both honest and non-judgmental.

The Most Dangerous Thing is the story of a sensitive girl who successfully overcomes some pretty big life challenges, and in doing so, finds herself well on her way to discovering (and celebrating) who she really is.

Teens will relate to this story on many different levels. Those grappling with anxiety and self-esteem issues will most certainly find a kindred spirit in Sydney.


Carol Anne Shaw

Carol Anne Shaw is the author of the “Hannah” books, all from Ronsdale Press: Hannah & the Spindle Whorl (2010), Hannah & the Salish Sea (2013), and Hannah & the Wild Woods (2015). When not writing, Carol Anne can often be found painting at her easel or hiking the local trails that surround her home in the Cowichan Valley on Vancouver Island.


The Ormsby Review. More Readers. More Reviews. More Often.

Reviews Editor: Richard Mackie

Reviews Publisher: Alan Twigg

The Ormsby Review is a new journal for serious coverage of B.C. literature and other arts. It is hosted by Simon Fraser University. The Advisory Board consists of Jean Barman, Robin Fisher, Cole Harris, Wade Davis, Hugh Johnston, Patricia Roy, David Stouck, and Graeme Wynn.

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