Pickpocket

Series: Orca Soundings
Publication Date: 30 Jun. 2021
Format: Paperback / softback

ISBN 9781459827981

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    After his younger sister dies, 17-year-old Jean-Luc goes into a downward spiral. He is sent away for the summer to live with his uncle in a small town on the coast of France. His first day there he meets the beautiful Selina and decides that this summer might not be so bad after all. That is until he realizes that she stole his wallet. Jean-Luc does some detective work & eventually tracks her down. 

    Selina confesses that she and other runaway teens are being exploited by a mysterious figure known only as Le Patron. Jean-Luc devises a plan to help Selina escape, but will the two of them be able to outwit the dangerous criminal?

    Information

    Book Type: Junior High
    Age Group: 14 Years +
    Traffic Lights: Amber
    Class Novel: Yes
    Good Reads Rating: 5/5
    Literary Rating: 5/5

    Review

    After his sister died of leukemia, Jean-Luc struggled to deal with his grief. He fell in with a bad group of friends and often acted out, doing the wrong thing and causing his parents grief. Finally fed up, Maman and Papa decide to send him away for the summer; to work with his great-uncle Henri in Nice, France. 

    Needless to say, Jean-Luc is less than thrilled by this prospect and ships off to Nice anticipating a very boring summer. Once there, he settles into a very monotonous routine with his uncle and his co-worker, Marcel. Not long after he arrives Jean-Luc meets Selina, a beautiful girl who immediately catches his eye…unfortunately, she also steals his wallet.

    Jean-Luc soon discovers that Selina isn’t just a simple pickpocket—she is being kept in Nice against her will, forced to be part of a child pickpocketing ring controlled by the cruel ‘Le Patron’. Determined to help this girl—who reminds him so much of his poor sister, Lena, Jean-Luc sneaks Selina as much money as he can spare, hoping to keep Le Patron off her back. 

    As the weeks pass, Jean-Luc slowly comes to appreciate the people and atmosphere in Nice, realising that he has been acting quite terribly ever since Lena’s death as he tries to help Selina. Unfortunately, nothing he does seems to be good enough, and Jean-Luc comes to a decision: he must help Selina escape Nice. 

    Together with Henri and Marcel, Jean-Luc convinces Selina to trust him, and they successfully smuggle the girl out of Nice and safely to her aunt in another town. With the end of the summer fast approaching, Jean-Luc realises his time in Nice was far more enjoyable than he anticipated and is finally ready to make amends with his old friends and family and rebuild his life in a world without Lena.

    This is an engaging and heart-felt story about friendship and grief. Jean-Luc has a wonderful arc throughout the book as he realises that his behaviour following Lena’s death has been unacceptable, and that he hasn’t been dealing with his grief in a healthy way. Selina’s story is arrestingly tense, adding an intriguing sense of apprehension and unease to this very enjoyable story.

    Themes

    France, Nice, responsibility, socca, grief, friendship, pickpocketing, child crime rings, abuse

    Content Notes

    1. There are frequent references to drinking throughout the story. Notably, Jean-Luc is very hungover after a party at the beginning of the story. Under-18-year-olds drink beer and wine throughout the rest of the book, although this is purportedly seen as acceptable in France. 2. Selina is beaten and burned by ‘Le Patron’ when she displeases him. This takes the form of bruises and cigarette burns on her skin, as well as implied sexual abuse (although this is never specifically stated, only vaguely implied) (p. 63-65, 79). 3. Jean-Luc mentions watching girls down on the beach with ‘no tops on’ (p. 28), Jean-Luc refers to Selina’s ‘boobs’ (p. 29) and her ‘butt’ (p. 31), Selina mentions talking about ‘hooking up’ with a pickpocketing target (p. 80). 4. Language: Jean-Luc’s dad ‘drops some f-bombs’ (p. 3), shit x 6, ‘pissed off’ x 1 (p. 39).