FRIESEN, Gayle




Author Tags: Fiction, Kidlit & Young Adult

Gayle Friesen of Delta, B.C., began writing young adult novels as an assignment in writing class at UBC. Since then she has authored a series of young adult novels. In her first book, Men of Stone (Kids Can, $16.95), Ben is ridiculed and bullied for taking ballet, and turned down by the co-ed volleyball team. Although he lives in a house full of women, he can’t talk to a single girl. But when Great Aunt Frieda comes to visit and tells Ben about life in Russia and how the men of stone, Stalin’s agents, terrorized her family, he comes to understand the man he wants to be. In The Isabel Factor (Kids Can, $19.95), Anna, as a camp counselor, must come out from the shadow of her fearless, best friend Zoe, who has broken her arm. Her new cabin mate Isabel is decidedly different, outspoken, with rainbow hair, and Anna is forced to become more self-assertive. [See review] Friesen's first novel for adults, The Valley, concerns a prodigal daughter named Gloria who returns to a Mennonite community in the Fraser Valley after a twenty-year absence. While living on her parents' farm, she learns to confront the tragedy that has haunted her for years.

BOOKS:

Men of Stone (Kids Can Press, 2001) 1-55074-781-9
Janey’s Girl (Kids Can Press)
Losing Forever
The Isabel Factor (Kids Can Press, 2005).
For Now (Kids Can Press, 2007)
The Valley (Key Porter, 2008)

[BCBW 2008] "Kidlit" "Fiction"

The Isabel Factor
Review (2005)



An inevitable loss, the loss of who we once were, is at the heart of The Isabel Factor (Kids Can, $19.95), Gayle Friesen’s fourth young adult novel.

A pair of socks. Peanut butter and jelly. Anna and Zoe. All inseparable. Best friends since first grade, Zoe wasn’t afraid to live life and Anna wasn’t afraid “to take notes.” Together they were a pair.

Then the indomitable Zoe breaks her arm. This year her accommodating sidekick Anna must head off to Camp Stillwater alone. Anna has always been comfortable playing second banana, but now she’ll have to operate as a Camp Counselor in Training beyond her friend Zoe’s shadow. Her Book Club, Oprah Magazine-reading mother insists, “Sometimes in life we just have ourselves. Sometimes it has to be enough.”

But Anna isn’t convinced. At the camp, it seems everyone is lining up to take pot shots at her. First, there’s the uber-competitive Jennifer, with a 3.8 grade point average and her future Chairman of the Board aspirations. The high achieving Jennifer is determined they must trounce Arlene Breckner’s cabin in the big swim race.

Karim, the swimming coach Anna is paired with, has the “same toffee-coloured skin, same black, silky hair that would brush the top of his shirt collar, if he wore a shirt, which would be a shame.” But her dreamboat swimming instructor is as hard on Anna as ever, accusing her of pacing herself so she never comes in first.

Isabel, the new, rainbow-haired girl at camp, doesn’t play by the rules. She kowtows to no one and says what she’s thinking. It’s unsettling for Anna to meet someone who always tells the truth.

Anna remains a moving target, keeping peace between Jennifer and plainspoken Isabel, and convincing Karim she’s up to being his assistant. As someone whose name has never appeared on the list of the Top Five Girls You Hate, she is determined, above all, to get along. Then her loyalties get confused when suddenly her former best friend Zoe shows up at camp, plaster cast, hidden agenda and all.

Delta-based Gayle Friesen grew up in the Fraser Valley reading Little Women and Peter Pan. All three of her previous titles, Janey’s Girl, Men of Stone and Losing Forever, have been selected by the New York Public Library for its Books for the Teen Age list. 1-55337-737-0

by Louise Donnelly