Deborah Ellis and Eric Walters,
Fitzhenry and Whiteside, 2007.
Ages 12 +
Bifocal brings together two authors, who have each contributed alternate chapters in a seamless narrative. Award-winning Canadian authors Deborah Ellis and Eric Walters have teamed up to create a stimulating and dynamic book that makes readers question their own assumptions and ideas about race, faith and gender. Bifocal is a novel about two teenage boys, Jay and Haroon, who attend a large, urban, multicultural high school in Canada. Jay is new to the school and a bit unsure of himself. Looking for a way to make friends, he joins the football team, headed by the brash and popular Kevin. Haroon is a member of the school’s "Reach for the Top" team. "Reach for the Top" is a TV quiz show that pits various high school teams against one another in a battle of wits. Haroon and Jay already seem like opposites in interests and motivation, but actually how different are they? In grappling for an identity in the complex mix of students in their high school, these young men must truly think their way through a plethora of influences – teachers, parents, coaches, peers – to a way of being that is unique and true to their personalities.
The novel begins with a lockdown. There’s been a bomb threat, and the police tactical squad has been called in. While Jay looks on from his rooftop perch with his football buddies, Haroon is frisked and questioned by the police in the middle of his Reach for the Top preparations. Later, Azeem, another "Reach for the Top" team member, is arrested and taken away as a suspect. Haroon and Azeem are Muslims. Clearly, they are being targeted for their faith and race. The lockdown, the police questioning and arrest of Azeem, and the ensuing TV coverage set the school on edge. Suspicions arise. Tensions form. Through all this, Haroon and Jay must come to terms with their vision, their perspective on the events. The title Bifocal is not given to this book without good reason!
Selected for inclusion in both the CCBC’s Best Books for Kids & Teens, 2008 and the White Ravens 2008 Catalog, Bifocal is both riveting and thoughtful. The reader comes to care for the characters in a way that is engaging and genuine . What Jay and Haroon discover about themselves and each other makes Bifocal a highly recommended read for young adults.