There’s something about doing good deeds that appeals to children. They like the warm fuzzy feeling they get when they help people. But sometimes good intentions go off track. When I was eleven, I instigated The Happy Times Club to deliver homemade cards to lonely seniors. Sadly, a power struggle over who would be president led to its unhappy demise.
Likewise, the well-meaning characters in Random Acts by Valerie Sherrard are confounded by their all-too-human natures. Zoey Dalton and her friends, Bean and Jenna, form a secret club to perform anonymous and random acts of kindness. Unfortunately, their efforts seem to be cursed, and each random act they attempt results in disaster. They blunder on, and soon Zoey is in crisis management mode, as she tries to keep track of a series of deceptions and misunderstandings with irate neighbours, infuriated classmates, and her bewildered parents. The mishaps build to an entertaining climax involving police, a trip to the hospital, and an interesting confrontation with the boy of her dreams.
Reading Random Acts has the same appeal as watching I Love Lucy reruns–the fun comes from watching the mad schemes go off the rails. Zoey is a very likeable, completely human character who has a knack for getting things wrong, while blithely telling herself all her machinations are justified and it will all work out in the end.
Young readers will easily relate to the characters in this amusing book: Zoey and her friends like to pig out on pizza, avoid homework and keep their “illicit” activities under their parents’ radar, but they also really want to make the world a better place–one madcap random act of kindness at a time.
By Valerie Sherrard
$14.99, paperback, 264 pp.
Penguin Group Canada, February 2015