Title: The Edge of Limits
Author: Susanne Gervay
Reviewer: Tom H (Year 11)
Confronting, empowering, and insightful. Susanne Gervay's novel, The Edge of Limits, is an emotional rollercoaster exploring the search for identity and finding one’s self in a confusing world riddled with expectations, unwritten rules, and unfamiliar experiences. Pulling from her own teenage children's experiences, Gervay artfully constructs an authentic story of a gruelling school camp through the lens of 17-year-old protagonist, Sam Knox.
The reader gets to follow not only the physical journey of teenage boys on a school camp–trekking through the bush, climbing sickening slopes, swimming in icy cold water and exploring a confronting cave–but also the heartfelt emotional journey that sees the characters grow and develop. The Edge of Limits is a coming-of-age story highlighting hidden qualities in people and the importance of talking about your feelings to better yourself and learn about others. It wholeheartedly grapples with pertinent issues relevant to both boys and girls, including consent, mateship, acceptance, and masculinity, making it an insightful and valuable read. However, what truly brings this book to life is the authentic voice of Sam, which is clear, strong, realistic, and nuanced, allowing it to make deep connections with young men. It's a book that keeps you turning the pages.
The Edge of Limits’ story is also blasted forward by the antagonist, Watts, the school bully who strikes fear and frustration into all who cross him. His character is scheming, power-seeking, evil, and has a twitching personality born from peer pressure, locked-up feelings, a lack of good role models, and not understanding healthy masculinity. These traits cast Watts as a core agent in driving home many morals, including the dangers of drugs, suicide rates, violence, and abuse.
While the reader builds an increasingly unpleasant image of Watts, we follow Sam's journey from a lost and confused teen into a more confident young man with a greater understanding of himself and his place in the world. He learns to stand up for what is right and surprises the reader by facing his fears and crushing what is wrong. This heroic character allows readers to form their own opinions of whether they want to be the bully or the hero. The book doesn't force anything; it presents good and bad values in action and guides the reader to choose wisely.
In terms of the beautiful imagery and plot, there were some minor things I noticed. Firstly, this is quite an intense book and generally suited to readers aged 15 and above. This is because the story has scenes and characters that are so disturbing or frustrating that it might trigger powerful emotions and leave unforgettable memories. And although this is where much of the book's value lies, younger readers should proceed with care.
The book also employs small flashbacks that dive into Sam's past and give more depth and clarity into his thoughts, emotions, and beliefs. These flashbacks are insightful, and I wish the book used this technique more often and in more depth.
So, will younger readers take the time and effort to commit to a book like this? Gervay sure thinks so, and after reading it, I agree. It's short enough to be approachable and long enough to engage the teenage brain and invoke actual, lasting change for the betterment of humankind.
The Edge of Limits helps boys find themselves. It shows them that there's value in their hearts and shatters many stereotypes constraining men and women, allowing people to live happier, fuller, and freer lives.
It was a pleasure reading this book and a joy to rate it 9/10. Happy reading!
Interested to learn more about Susanne Gervay and her work? Then you may like to consider attending our next Professional Learning Summit: The Strength of Story (4 March 2023) where Susanne is presenting the opening keynote address "The Search for Identity is the Journey"