Toronto’s Huck Finn with Laughs: Into the Ravine

9780887768224As you can see from my posts, I’m slowly making my way through Toronto reading that I didn’t manage to fit in last year for my work. However, I have to say I’ve been pleasantly surprised by both Strange Fugitive and Richard Scrimger’s Into the Ravine. They have been refreshing, enjoyable reads. They may not be my typical fare (although come to think of it, what would be my typical fare now?), but they have been pleasurable jaunts into different genres.

Scrimger’s novel is aimed at young readers with a cast made up primarily of young boys and plenty of children’s humor. That’s not to say that I didn’t laugh, because I did find myself guffawing and laughing out loud at various points. Into the Ravine is a contemporary Adventure of Huckleberry Finn, set in Scarborough (not quite Toronto, but it pretty much is for those of us who live outside of the GTA). Three boys – Jules, the narrator, Chris, the athletic friend, and Cory, the zombie-loving, possibly autistic friend – set out on a homemade raft from their backyards in Scarborough in a quest to make it down Highland Creek to Lake Ontario. What follows is a raucous ride down a mostly-gentle river in which the boys encounter some of Toronto’s homeless population, a leopard-print bikini-clad young girl who is very much like an Amazon, a boa constrictor, a neighbourhood gang, and even a burning reptile museum. Scrimger packs the novel with action, some of it serious and other parts humorous, while also exploring the changing dynamics between the three friends.

What I liked most about Scrimger’s novel is how it also acts as a commentary on Scarborough and the GTA. The boys, clearly from a lower middle class background, are bamboozled by the very wealthy houses they encounter closer to Lake Ontario (including a funny scene with a talking toilet). They crash a pool party and find themselves ill-fitting with the young affluent children who attend a private school. Scrimger also has a great section on Community Service and the corrections system along with the painfully true critique of how racially slanted the entire system is (the Corrections officer does do roll-call but simply counts black and white offenders, with the majority being black). Into the Ravine also raises some serious questions about Toronto’s homeless population (many of whom live in the ravines), youth violence, and pollution. All this without becoming either preachy or straying too far away from offering an entertaining narrative.

Overall, I would highly recommend this book for readers of young adult fiction or for people who live in Toronto. It’s lots of fun and not too fluffy as to be inconsequential.

Scrimger, Richard. Into the Ravine. Toronto: Tundra Books, 2007. Print.


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