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Young Adult Fiction Assimilation

Focus. Click. Wind.

by (author) Amanda West Lewis

Groundwood Books Ltd
Initial publish date
Aug 2023
Assimilation, Emigration & Immigration, 20th Century
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Aug 2023
    List Price
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Aug 2023
    List Price

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Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels

  • Age: 13 to 18
  • Grade: 8 to 12


What if your country is involved in an unjust war, and you’ve lost trust in your own government?

It's 1968, and the Vietnam War has brought new urgency to the life of Billie Taylor, a seventeen-year-old aspiring photojournalist. Billie is no stranger to risky situations, but when she attends a student protest at Columbia University with her college boyfriend, and the US is caught up in violent political upheaval, her mother decides to move the two of them to Canada. Furious at being dragged away from her beloved New York City to live in a backwater called Toronto, Billie doesn’t take her exile lightly. As her mother opens their home to draft evaders and deserters, Billie’s activism grows in new ways. She discovers an underground network of political protesters and like minds in a radical group based in Rochdale College, the world’s first “free” university. And the stakes rise when she is exposed to horrific images from Vietnam of the victims of Agent Orange – a chemical being secretly manufactured in a small town just north of Toronto.

Suddenly she has to ask herself some hard questions. How far will she go to be part of a revolution? Is violence ever justified? Or does standing back just make you part of the problem?


Key Text Features

author’s note





historical context

literary references

song lyrics

About the author

AMANDA WEST LEWIS is the author of seven books for young readers, including These Are Not the Words. Her novel September 17 was nominated for the Silver Birch Award, the Red Cedar Award and the Violet Downey IODE Award. She is a writer, theater creator, calligrapher and teaching artist. She is the founder of the Ottawa Children’s Theatre, and she has an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts. Born in New York City, she now lives in Brooke Valley, Ontario, with her husband, writer Tim Wynne-Jones.

Amanda West Lewis' profile page

Excerpt: Focus. Click. Wind. (by (author) Amanda West Lewis)

Slow motion becomes freeze frame. A man in a plaid shirt, blood streaming down his face, is on his knees holding a sobbing woman. Another man frowns as he tucks what’s left of a torn shirt into his pants....

A filing cabinet spills a river of paper. Cigarette butts and paper plates are mashed into the carpet.

Photos from a war zone. Quietly she focuses, clicks and winds.

Exhaustion seeps through her pores. Three days in the trenches of democracy has used up her store of bravery. She wants to go home. She wants to put the skin of her old life back on and get into bed.

But first she needs to get down the heavy marble stairs. She needs to stand under the bright lights and colorful murals in the subway at 116th. She needs to sit quietly, invisibly, in the urine-drenched subway car until she can slide into the elevator at 181st and let it deliver her to the murky surface of Washington Heights.

And then she needs to sneak back into the apartment without getting caught.

Editorial Reviews

A fascinating young adult book that raises important questions about how young people should react when they disagree with their country's actions. Is rebellion a legitimate option?

Winnipeg Free Press

Focus. Click. Wind. has more grit than many coming-of-age novels.

Quill & Quire

This book will engage readers while leaving them with lots to think about including how can one person make a difference during times of social unrest.

Canadian Children's Book News

Focus. Click. Wind. by Amanda West Lewis leans into the sex, drugs, and rock and roll of the late 1960s, but these details are merely a portal into something more significant: a depiction of the social consciousness of youth who were simultaneously navigating personal tragedy and government-sponsored violence.

Historical Novel Society

Readers find they must respect [Billie's] diligence, her heartfelt devotion to an important cause and her desire to question the roles set out for her by her mom, her friends and, indeed, her government.

CM: Canadian Review of Materials

Readers may benefit from Lewis' … explorations of the importance of protest and considerations of violence perpetrated in the name of a greater good.

Kirkus Reviews

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