A veteran photojournalist on the arts and entertainment scene, Julian Bynoe is a Toronto-based cartoonist, artist and arts blogger. From 1996 to 2014, he was the arts/entertainment editor for the street publication The Outreach Connection, and has had articles featured in Realms Magazine, among others.

EDITION #104 - WEEK OF SEPTEMBER 19-25, 2016

Syrian white knights in White Helmets, Luscious La La Land

Toronto International Film Festival 2016 Reviews

Part 2 of a 2-part series

Hissane Habré: A Chadian Tragedy

Tuesday, September 13; 11:30 a.m.

Chadian Arabic with English subtitles

Chadian film master Mahamat-Saleh Haroun (A Screaming Man) returns to the festival with his second documentary project Hissane Habré: A Chadian Tragedy on the horrors his country went through under a brutal dictatorship of Hissane Habré and the survivors of his cruelty isn’t any more revealing than what previous films about fallen despots have done, but this one does stand on its own.

From his involvement of kidnapping three Europeans in the First Chadian Civil War in 1974 and his rise to power in 1978, Hissane Habré ruled the country with an iron fist with his secret police known as the DDS, in compliance with French and American support during the Cold War; committed unjust arrests and horrific crimes against humanity on his citizens and foreigners for crimes real and imagined that lead to the deaths of 40,000 – some in mass graves. Until he fled into a comfortable exile in Senegal in 1990 for the next 25 years, he believed, like so many of his victims as well; that he was untouchable and wouldn’t answer for his crimes until his 2013 arrest and his most recent trial and conviction to life imprisonment on May 30, 2016.

Haroun, who mostly spent those dark years away in French exile; films those whose lives were destroyed by the regime, physically and psychological, from the rich importer who was taken and severely beaten by the DDS mainly because of his position, making him invalid and poor; a Chadian of Libyan descent left partly-deaf and blind at a time when Chad was at a border war with Qaddafi in the 1980s with accusations of “sympathy to the enemy” to a “disappeared” rebel leader’s widow who also lost her eldest daughter due to the stress, cannot weep anymore over her losses.

The bright spot comes under the gallant effort of a quixotic activist named Clément, also a DDS torture survivor; that set up a victims’ association to keep the memory of their pains alive and in memory of those who didn’t make it and determined to see Habré brought to justice. He also mediates with the victims and former guards to find reconciliation between them are uncomfortably tense, in particular to an amputee named Badolo Waya and his ex-torturer known as Mahamat “The Cameroonian” giving a half-hearted apology for his actions before forgiveness can be given.

Sad as it is to view such suffering, Haroun delivers a full-bodied documentation in taking in their deadened eyes and silenced souls managing to get through with their lives after such unimaginable ordeals. However you can’t help but feel that certain glee that comes with Clément’s triumphant satisfaction touring the Senegalese courtroom the day before Habré’s trial and the final muted shot of the struggling ex-dictator being hauled off by the court bailiffs to prison in protest, makes it all worthwhile sitting through.

Maliglutit (Searchers)

Wednesday, September 14; 12 p.m.

Inuktitut with English subtitles

Growing up in Igloolik, Nunavut where the only entertainment was watching Westerns at the local community centre came as a natural for Zacharias Kunuk (Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner) to make his first narrative film in over a decade Maliglutit (Searchers), loosely inspired by the 1956 John Wayne classic The Searchers redone as a Northwestern revenge drama; is fantastic watching with its tight direction and storyline put into motion throughout.

Set in 1913 Nunavut, hunter Kuanana (Benjamin Kunuk) and his eldest son Siku (Joseph Uttak) come back from a successful caribou hunt to find his wife Ailla (Jocelyne Immaroitok) and daughter Tagaq (Karen Ivalu) have been kidnapped by a gang of troublemaking renegade hunters led by Kupak (Joey Sarpinak) and killing his parents and youngest son in the process. With little weaponry at their disposal, Kuanana and Siku chase Kupak’s gang across the frozen wasteland, using his dying father’s spirit helper loon amulet and the obsessive drive to rescue their family.

Replacing horses with husky-driven sleds and burning sierras with arctic snowdrifts, Kunuk and his Fast Runner co-director Natar Ungalaaq manage to create intensity inside claustrophobic igloo interiors, weighty fur coats and yawningly endless tundra feel very real enough by Jonathan Frantz’s cinematography and a balanced plot as scripted by Kunuk and long-time collaborator Norman Cohn to let the elements add to the real-time feel and tension to the film, along with a capable cast to carry out their roles.

Contemporary Inuit singer Tanya Tagaq and composer Chris Crilly add a touch of haunting and pulsing mysticism with their score for Maliglutit (Searchers) ’s brilliant mould of modernism with animism that would make John Ford proud. Already it’s the best Canadian film of the year, perhaps of the decade even.

Wùlu

Wednesday, September 14; 6:15 p.m.

Bambara and French with English subtitles

Malian-French filmmaker Daouda Coulibaly took a long time to make a feature film after many years with shorts with the narco-thriller Wùlu, based on the West African drug trade and the corruptive elements from politicians to terrorists that fuelled the need in the last decade which created a economic collapse in Mali by 2012 Coulibaly exposes unrushed in his direction and minus the usual overtures that comes with the genre.

Ibrahim Koma is Ladji, who finds himself out of work and pushed out of his dream of becoming a minibus owner in 2007 Bamako after he’s passed over for a promotion. Desperately looking for a way out of poverty and to stop his sister Aminata (Inna Modja) from selling her body to make ends meet, he turns to a local drug dealer and along with a couple of buddies (Quim Gutiérrez, Ndiaye Ismaël) of his they start trafficking coke in and around the porous borders of Western Africa.

Becoming more and more drawn into dangerous stakes over a three-year period that eventually wears him down over time, Ladji sees how deep everyone gets tangled in, that also involves a powerful but amoral general (Traore Jean-Marie) for whom his daughter (Ndiaye Mariame) has a eye on Ladji; that he finds there’s almost no way out to be able to secure him without completely sacrificing his soul.

Wùlu (Bambara for dog) has the quietest mannerism I’ve ever seen for a crime-drama that doesn’t go mimicking Scorsese or anything that could be seen as a knock-off (what a relief), but the low pacing works in this film’s and the writer/director’s favour when he puts his characters in situations that they know they’re totally out of their league and how money changes everything in their lives shown in the taunt script.

Koma plays his role as the antihero forced to take drastic measures to fulfill his dreams as the simplicity they once had erodes away with meaningful and calm demeanour if just a bit too serious, as does Ndiaye Ismaël as the unfortunate Zol that becomes a cokehead holds a certain gravitas and Inna as Animata that grows completely materialistic with his brother’s good fortune who will unknowingly become his undoing.

Pierre Milon’s cinematic palette creates palatable moods for Wùlu that give much credit to the film’s commentary throughout on the greed of humanity over drug addiction and the debris they leave behind that Coulibaly navigates with and exposes that underbelly. Can’t wait to see what he will come up with next time.

Short Cuts Program 11

Wednesday, September 14; 9:15 p.m.

Portuguese filmmaker Gabriel Abrantes’ A Brief History of Princess X looks at the modern art sculptor Constantine Brâncuși’s (Francisco Cipriano) commissioned piece on what was supposed to be a sculpture of Marie Bonaparte (Joana Barrios) – the great-grandniece of Napoleon – and turned into a controversial phallic work of art and a exposé on female sexuality interconnecting these elements is a amusing seven-minute tale that elicits a few chuckles on the intricacies of art and politics being of strange bedfellows.

DataMine from the award-winning Nova Scotia animator Timothy Barron Tracey takes a kinetic swipe at the blurred lines of our tech-obsessed society and the surveillance society we find ourselves in through nightmarish stop-motion figures of dolls and action figures have that old-school analog feel to it courtesy of Joshua Van Tassel’s dark techno score; From Indonesia is On The Origin of Fear recalling filmmaker Bayu Prihantoro Filemon’s childhood under the Suharto era was made to watch a anti-Communist propaganda film with graphic torture scenes, as he recreates this through a voice actor (Pritt Timothy) being pushed to the limits physically and physiologically in the recording studio as both torturer and the tortured works alright but kind of average in pacing.

Anna Maguire adapts Dave Eggers’ short story Your Mother and I into a seriocomic story between a father (Don McKeller) and his teenaged daughter (Julia Sarah Stone) in his tall tales of how he and her mother had changed the world for the better as a narrative on personal relationships and loss. It actually looks better than it sounds through its easygoing structure and dialogue as composed from Ian Macmillan’s subdued cinematography and Tisha Myles’s production design in this British/Canadian co-production – and the llamas.

Métis stop-motion animator Amanda Strong, who brought the fantasy Indigo to the 2014 Short Cuts program returns with Four Faces of the Moon, a darker look of Canada’s colonialist history told in four chapters from residential schools to the near-extermination plans on the bison and starving out the First Nations populace through four Native languages and in French had some interesting points, including moments recreating the Riel Rebellions and a reclaiming of one’s heritage. But the linear here is kind of fractured by putting too many ideas and cramming in all into a statement about culture despite its noble efforts to do so.

Controversial Netflix documentary The White Helmets from Academy Award-nominated director Orlando von Einsiedel (Virunga) follows the apolitical Syrian Civil Defence, better known as the White Helmets; that was formed in 2013 when the Syrian Revolution broke out and replaced the infrastructure breakdown in the major and minor cities brought a lack of first responder units now with 120 units across the country and were recently nominated for this year’s Nobel Peace Prize.

In the 40-minute run, the film crew witnesses the Aleppo brigade selflessly risk their own lives while under fire from rebel factions to Syrian and Russian jets targeting civilian populations shows true grit. Coming from all walks of life prior to the revolution, these all-volunteer teams of men and women (they’re conspicuously absent in this doc) works as one cohesive band, as one former anti-Assad rebel said of his now-pacifist life: “It is better to rescue a soul than to take one.”

The most poignant moment comes when the unit rescues this one week-old infant buried under rubble for 16 hours straight they named “the miracle baby” they found alive in one piece and later reunited a year later at a refugee camp during one of their annual training sessions in neighbouring Turkey is a joy, even as one of them anxiously awaits news of his brother that got hit during a bombing raid back home.

The White Helmets, which rightfully earned a honourable mention at TIFF Short Cuts Award for Best Short Film; brings a hopeful face to the Syrian conflict for their hard and heartbreaking work has saved over 60,000 lives while 130 White Helmets have perished since their beginnings, yet their spirits remain ever high is a commendable testimony to human endurance during the most troubled times Von Einsiedel brings to notice for the global spotlight. If this film doesn’t get a Best Documentary Short Oscar nomination and/or win – or a Nobel Peace Prize for this organization – this year, there’s definitely something wrong with world.

General Report on Certain Matters of Interest for a Public Screening

Thursday, September 15; 11:45 a.m.

Spanish/Catalan/Euskera with English subtitles

To coincide with the premiere of his epilogue follow-up General Report II. The New Abduction of Europe at TIFF, the film fest offered a freebie screening of Pere Portabella’s 1976 original General Report on Certain Matters of Interest for a Public Screening, a two-and-a-half hour avant-garde treatise on post-Franco Spain and its tentative baby steps to democracy about two years after his death and the chaos that came with it, brings a certain sense of how complicated it is to implement it after such a lengthy period of dictatorship for any society.

Opening with pro-democracy rallies that get put down regularly by riot police, the film glimpses on behind the scenes workings by party and union leaders who worked underground or had returned from exile during the Franco years debate almost endlessly in homes and offices on how to resolve the political vacuum from attaining safeguards from slipping back into the dark, combating the rampant illiteracy in the lesser-developed areas of the country, rebuilding Spanish Civil War-ruined ghost towns from a failed agrarian program which led the country’s economic stagnation of the 1960s and ‘70s, handling the (then-)still functioning fascist elements remaining in government to accommodating all groups into a workable federalism of states and reasonable constitution, even from nationalist groups of the Catalonians and Basques who fought against the regime.

It can be tedious watching it sometimes with its long-running timeframe for the subject matter at hand, yet the visuals have their sharpness and the arguments show what a democracy looks like to what kind of country Franco left behind and the lessons they learned from postwar Italy’s struggles since Mussolini, whether it’s wondering if rational pluralism can exist in a federal structure after dictatorship to re-educating the masses over their democratic roots and political autonomy.

General Report on Certain Matters of Interest for a Public Screening won’t directly appeal to layperson watchers, given that its antiquated freestyle jazz soundtrack gives it its oddly-contrived sound here and there plus it hasn’t aged very well and long in tooth, it’s a relatively good viewing about Cold War-period Western European history of a country throwing off the yoke of oppression.

Heaven Will Wait

Saturday, September 17; 8:30 p.m.

French with English subtitles

A most timely film about the phenomenon of radicalized youngsters heading off to Syria to fight in their revolution against Bashir Assad, the drama Heaven Will Wait may connect itself to France’s problems in deterring a generation from going to fight jihad and the possibility of returning to commit terrorist attacks on home soil has these last couple of years have demonstrated, it’s a universal story that touches base from producer/director/co-writer Marie-Castille Mention-Schaar, if only in a semi-straight manner.

Focusing on two teenaged girls Sonia Bouzaria (Noémie Merlant), of Arabic descent who gets stopped by the authorities just in time from going off to Syria via Turkey, and Mélanie Thenot (Naomi Amarger), a French national who gets seduced by a touts (recruiter) online calling himself Freedom Lover to join; it breaks down into two stories of how these groups can target the vulnerable with their religion’s “noble” cause from denouncing Western values to the point of obsession and make them want to leave behind their countries, families and lives, possibly never to return and their fates unknown.

In the wake of terrorist attacks that have plagued France and Europe of late, Mention-Schaar writes an intelligent story but her direction is incohesive from going all over the place in regarding Sonia and Mélanie’s experiences that’s almost hard to follow at times, but that’s the only weak spot. Regardless, it reveals what these recruits will do to draw in these kids is a real eye-opener and the cast put on really convincing performances of the confusion and suffering these families go through, in particular to Mélanie’s single mother Sylvie (Clotilde Courau) who deeply agonizes the loss of her child with a silent despondence and of Merlant’s character of her deprogramming is like a watching a junkie go through withdrawal and fears of being drawn back is so real.

The film addresses these issues quite accordingly and in a no-nonsense manner, despite the uneven narrative. Yet, Heaven Will Wait does leave that unanswerable question long after it ends: is it ever possible for these former and wannabe jihadists to be normally reintegrated back into society when the indoctrination by these groups, much like a cult, can often run so deep?

My Life as a Courgette

Sunday, September 18; 12:30 p.m.

French with English subtitles

Based on the French YA novel Autobiographie d’une Courgette by Gilles Paris, Swiss animator/co-writer Claude Barras spent ten years getting the film version My Life as a Courgette on the screen and it’s a semi-dark, if wondrously lovely claymation tale of a young boy learning how to cope with life in foster care.

After accidentally causing his alcoholic single mother’s death, nine year-old Icare a.k.a. Courgette (Gaspard Schlatter) is sent to the Fontaines group home for orphaned preteens like himself. Being teased at first about his strange nickname his mother gave him, meaning “zucchini,” doesn’t make the transition easier for him until he learns that everyone here has had their own personal hardships in their young lives including the group home bully, Simon (Paulin Jaccoud).

Upon the arrival of Camille (Sixtine Murat) who witnessed her parents’ murder-suicide and grilled by her mean guardian aunt Ida (Brigette Rosset) after her inheritance; the boy finds a kindred soul in her along with the kindly police officer Raymond (Michel Vuillermoz) who develops a liking to him and believing that life and finding happiness can go on is possible.

Barras injects a simple and sweet charm here and deftly avoids the nuances of a heavy-handed melodrama with its gentle persuasion makes it a real treat for all its heady subjects the other characters have endured from sexual abuse to abandonment issues is handled very delicately. The Céline Sciamma-penned script, along with Barras, Germano Zullo and Morgan Navvaro, is a good adaptation and honest with the language pubescent kids use, even the funnily crude way Simon explains the “facts of life” to his peers.

The vocal casting for the film is great with Schlatter as the superhero-loving sensitive hero, Jaccoud being the resident bully with a heart of gold beating under his tough guy exterior and Vuillermoz’s sympathetic cop looking to fill his lonely existence that he unexpectedly finds with these kids. As a multi-winner at several animation festivals already and Switzerland’s official Best Foreign Language Academy Award entry, My Life as a Courgette shows how the discarded misfits of the world have a place in all of us, including our hearts.

People’s Choice Award Winner: La La Land

Sunday, September 18; 6 p.m.

As always, TIFF People’s Choice Award offers a surprise every now and then and this year’s pick goes to the unconventional romantic-musical comedy La La Land from the director that reawakened audiences to jazz music with his Academy Award-winning drama Whiplash a couple of years back and does the same treatment here, only Damien Chazelle also marries the old-fashioned Hollywood musicals of yesteryear and keeps it quite contemporary for today’s discerning filmgoers.

Aspiring actress Mia (Emma Stone) and struggling jazz pianist Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) cross paths in Los Angeles enough times in their endeavours to attain success in their fields and before long, finding each other in a year-long courtship. When one finally achieves and the other flounders, it threatens their relationship on whether having to make some sacrifices to reach their dreams is really worth the cost.

Chazelle does it again in making a highly smart and original song-and-dance musical with Justin Hurwitz composing most of the numbers from its dazzling opening number “Another Day of Sun” during a traffic jam that would look corny in anyone’s hands but here it works brilliantly to the sombre ballads “Waste of A Lonely Night” and “City of Lights,” all to the lush cinematography of Linus Sandgren and graceful choreographed pieces by Mandy Moore.

Gosling and Stone make great chemistry through singing and a little dance as much as they do as a couple onscreen with flirty antagonistic beginnings and in separate performances of Gosling as the traditionalist jazzman being made to make hard choices of wanting to open that jazz nightclub and Stone feeling disheartened with every failed audition, then taking a leap of faith with a self-written one-woman theatre show. Other performances that surprise here is neo-soul superstar John Legend playing the headman of a successful jazz-pop band hiring Sebastian as a sideman and J.K. Simmons returning the favour for his Oscar win in Whiplash by doing a cameo as an hardball nightclub owner.

La La Land is a mainstream rarity of being a movie musical not derived from Broadway and/or a Hollywood musical remake hitting on all levels with charm, humour and drama that’s sure to win over those who don’t like jazz and film musicals touching each other with its own sweet story on following one’s dreams.

Wavelengths: Sharon Lockhart: Rudzienko

Gallery Review

Noted American photographer and filmmaker Sharon Lockhart’s two-channel film installation Rudzienko rethinks ethnographic curiosities to become a sort of video confessional on growing up showing at the west-end Gallery TPW (170 St. Helens Avenue) as part of TIFF’s Wavelengths series.

Cultivated out of a friendship with Milena Slowinska, a Polish girl who Lockhart had begun in a previous film project in 2009 there as part of her recurring theme of her artistry on childhood and adolescence, she organized several rural retreats for Slowinska and her friends in Rudzienko, a village located in eastern Poland 35 kilometres northwest of the regional capital Lublin and filmed over the last four years their thoughts and feelings as they go from the awkward period caught between girlhood and womanhood.

Shot in several vignettes in sparse Polish dialogue often followed with English subtitles of their life experiences, sometimes meaningful, sometimes banal conversations ranging from favourite foods, the shifting of relationships to parental suicides to long-take fixed frames to get the sense of solitude that it’s almost empowering in a sense to drink it all in and find the ability to switch your brain off and just be in that moment as shown on the larger screen; whereas on the smaller screen nearby, a poem by Andźelika Szczepańska runs through in English translation on love’s meditation, although a much shorter run.

From a slow dance without music of two teen girls that looks kind of intimate yet not to a endlessly sweeping vista of a field at dawn before they all spring out of a seemingly empty field and binary dialogue and texts, the film series are a contemplative study of the human condition seen through the eyes of teenaged girls coping with life and themselves in the 21st-century.

***

Sharon Lockhart: Rudzienko continues through October 29; Tuesday-Saturday 12-5 p.m., Sunday-Monday 1-5 p.m.. Admission is FREE. For information, call 416-645-1066 or gallerytpw.ca.

Festival Summary

The 41st edition of TIFF wasn’t a bad one given the line-up provided. La La Land was a obvious choice that touched the heart of its audiences in seeing it as a love letter to cinema itself; while the other standout personal favourites of mine went out to Chasing Trane: The John Coltrane Documentary, I Am Not Your Negro, Wùlu, Maliglutit (Searchers), Hissane Habré: A Chadian Tragedy, The White Helmets and La La Land. The Wavelengths visual art exhibits were good, yet rather smallish offerings compared to last year’s abundance.

Can’t complain about how they handled the flow of traffic in getting into screenings, including the People’s Choice Award at Roy Thomson Hall, although a couple of them were held back due to technical problems plagued them could be improved. All the same, TIFF 2016 can go down as being one of the fest’s better years.

TIFF goes (Star) Trekking

Arts Feature

For the first time since its grand opening in 2010, TIFF won’t have a blockbuster exhibit after bringing out such major ones based on celebrity culture (Grace Kelly and Andy Warhol) to filmmaker retrospectives (David Cronenberg and Stanley Kubrick). So in lieu of one, TIFF Lightbox (350 King Street West) goes into warp light speed with bringing into focus on one of pop culture’s lasting impacts on society as it marks its half-century this year, Star Trek, with a series of film and original television series retrospectives, talks and programmes starting this stardate Saturday (September 24) through to December 21.

Trekkies will have the opportunity to (re)discover all of the franchise’s film releases including the original six features, the Star Trek: The Next Generation tetralogy and the J.J. Abrams-rebooted additions to creator Gene Roddenberry’s universe. Introductions by two special guests are also in the works: 1979’s Star Trek: The Motion Picture will be introduced by its legendary special effects producer Douglas Trumbull and 1982’s Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, will be introduced by the director of that film and of Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, Nicholas Meyer; which the former is considered the best Trek film in the series with the original cast.

TIFF Lightbox will also show another fifteen-plus marathon screenings of Star Trek television episodes, as well as additional screenings of sci-fi films influenced by the popular series. Working with CBS Consumer Products and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), they will present roundtable discussions and keynote presentations that consider the cultural impact of Star Trek in the areas of television, film, astronomy, astrophysics, technology, education, social justice and politics.

From October 12 to November 16, Trek Talks considers the values and ideals at the core of Star Trek – progress, tolerance, technological innovation and social equity – to once again inspire today’s oft-jaded audiences to seek hope in a world that can, sometimes, seem dark and chaotic for a more optimistic future ahead. Trek Talks include a keynote presentation on Star Trek and space from Canadian astronaut Jeremy Hansen (October 12); and a presentation from theoretical physicist Lawrence Krauss on the ways in which Star Trek stacks up against the real universe (November 2).

Minus of having the rivalling Star Wars in its line-up, its The Fifth Quadrant: Sci-Fi Cinema After Star Trek film programme will set its sights on exploring the franchise’s influences (and references) across the history of contemporary science-fiction cinema include the 1972 Andrei Tarkovsky original Russian existentialist SF epic Solaris, Ridley Scott’s space horror masterpiece Alien to the feel-good ‘80s close encounter classic that defined a generation, E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial. And Lightbox’s annual Halloween fundraiser will be BOOMBOX:Warp Speed that will be taking its guests through a building-wide, multi-sensory Star Trek-themed party adventure coming October 27. Red shirts and Tribbles are most welcome to attend.

***

Tickets for BOOMBOX: Warp Speed are on sale now at tiff.net/events/boombox. For tickets/information, call 416-599-8433 or visit tiff.net/startrek/.

Blossoming dearies

Hundred Percent

by Karen Romano Young

294 pp., Chronicle Books/Raincoast Books

Hardcover, $23.99

Fiction/Young Adult

Book Review

In the tradition of Judy Blume’s seminal works Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret and Just As Long As We’re Together, Hundred Percent very much captures that moment of bordering between childhood and adolescence, as written by Karen Romano Young in her first young adult title in almost a decade, of one preteen girl’s school year that she’ll find totally confusing that readers will fully relate to those days where one wants to cling onto being a kid but facing the first steps of growing up.

Christine B. Gouda – Tink to her friends – is about to enter the sixth grade along with her best friend Jacqueline “Jackie” Messina and their other friends they’ve grown up with. Other than going through those bodily changes of being a early bloomer and the hormones kicking in those feelings over boys, Tink tries to figure out about those friendships that once held a firm foundation, all the suddenly goes shaky on a near-daily basis to wondering if she should ditch her nickname altogether for something more mature-sounding.

Chronicling each month over the school year of events and incidents between old friends and new from school parties to sleepovers, be it Jackie’s single mother Bess and her relationship with her beau and his kids or Tink shifting between her schoolroom crushes on the class clown Keith Kallinka and Matt “Bushwhack” Alva, they all know the inevitable: this is the final year in the “baby” elementary school where standing on the brink of starting their teen years is coming around the corner is only the beginning, facing it with excitement as well as trepidation.

Young knows how to tap into today’s tweens of their attitude and style and fuses them into her likeable characters here that is, surprisingly, more into exploring old-school tech of getting into appreciating the music on your parent’s vinyl records over digital downloads and less about puberty, texting and internet lingo, plus the changes in relationships with one’s family members and friends going from warm to bittersweet in a honestly executed fashion.

Hundred Percent speaks a honest and real deal of navigating those growing pains with what’s inside a twelve-year old’s head that can be read by grade five to eight levels and adults will probably get a kick out of it and insight with their younger teenage brood that the need and necessities for these books never grow out of style.