His Sweet Favour

CM Magazine, January 2010

Now there’s this problem, when you go and have sex with a guy, and it’s good, and you want to do it again, and you do, and it becomes like, the regular way things go at the end of the evening, or at lunchtime, or whatever. It makes this tunnel in your life, this sweet hot tunnel where you want to be all the time. All the other places you used to want to be get bloody boring when you’re thinking about getting away from other people and yanking each other’s clothes off.

Sex changes everything. People say it’s the natural progression and all that, go out a couple times and maybe fall in love and then do the bouncing blanket thing and a relationship just takes its natural course and gets better and better. Who thought up that freaking fairy tale?

Like the sex act itself. Isn’t it something I carry around in me everywhere I go for the rest of my life? I stand at the counter at McDonald’s and while the guy is taking my order I’m thinking: an hour ago the hands that are handing you money were running up and down somebody else’s naked body. I sit in English class and look at Mr. Stusiak and almost will him to know that about me, and I remember his voice all muffled in some part of Piper Teague the way it was right before Leith and I first ... Jesus.

Sex isn't just this thing that happens between my legs, or even just in my body. It happens to me. Nothing can be the same, ever. I try to tell Leith this a few times but he doesn't seem to get it. For him the sex is just an expression of his overpowering love. He can't separate it in his mind and think about what it means for this huge thing to happen to us.

I told him I'd try to love him. I'm still deciding, but good sex makes it damn hard to figure out whether I actually do. All I know is that I love having sex with him. Knowing this is not helpful. Remember what I said about sex filling up the universe? That is definitely the bad part. I'm lost in this universe full of Leith. What am I going to do?"

The Favour of the title is Favour Wyatt, a grade 12 student at Mooney Secondary in Vancouver who is just beginning her final year of high school. Along with her friends, Maryruth, Leith, Brady and Rick, she is an avid drama student, and the group looks forward to rehearsing what will be their final high school production. One day they hope to actually have their own theatre company. Life gets complicated when Favour and Leith become involved in a relationship, causing tension in the group of friends and a flood of uncertainties in Favour, herself.

Although the drama thread is important to the plot, particularly to begin the novel, it becomes lost as the book focuses almost entirely on the relationships among the friends and, in particular, on the romance of Favour and Leith. The characters seem rather unrealistic and are inconsistent from one encounter to the next. Perhaps this is Tucker’s way of suggesting that the feelings of teens are so strong that their emotions tug them in many ways and lead them to what may often seem unusual or at least uncharacteristic actions.

The supporting characters are a cohesive group and seem to have the ability to read one another’s minds and even, at times, to sense what the others are feeling, even if they are not together. Thus, there is a paranormal flavour to the book. Teens see lights and hear messages. For example, “They all turned and looked at me. They had faces, kind of. Not like people have faces but parts of the light that were like faces. Then they talked to me. Not with mouths but thinking their thoughts straight into my head.”

Like its cast of characters, the novel tends to the dramatic or even melodramatic. One’s first love is an important step in the maturing process, and, throughout the book, Favour seems unsure whether she truly loves Leith. There seems to be no problem for her in having a sexual relationship with him, but she vacillates between this making her euphoric versus causing her to feel used and something of a captive.

Adults in the novel have stereotyped roles, and most parents come across as ‘losers.’ Piper, the drama teacher, is more like student than staff, and her opinion of the principal, “It was quite a challenge getting the old bastard to see things my way,” mentioned in conversation with Favour, echoes that of the teens she teaches.

This young adult novel has several explicit sex scenes and thus requires maturity on the part of the reader. As well, it is sprinkled with language which may be realistic but is unsettling to read page after page and which may upset some readers. Teachers and teacher-librarians should read at least parts of the book before making it available to their general student population. Caveat lector. — Ann Ketcheson


What If? Magazine, Feb 2010
I have to admit that it took a while for me to get into the book at first. Probably because I was too used to reading Gossip Girl derivatives and didn't want to pull myself out of my happy comfort zone and actually get dirty. His Sweet Favour is precisely what Gossip Girl isn't. It's harsh; it's the raw emotions of a girl that we can actually relate to...she has dreams still unplanned, hopes she's unsure of, and a real life that's staring her in the face.

That girl is Favour. She's a senior at Mooney Secondary and it's her last year before... before what? That's what she doesn't know. She and her four close-knit friends dream of having their own theatre company after high school but what about everything that comes before? Her boyfriend's love scares her, her best friends believe in a crazed fantasy, and Favour doesn't know how to shake herself free from the friendships she's relied on for so long.

His Sweet Favour is incredibly well-written. It's like a collection of beautiful prose pieces stuck together to make a story that they published and called a novel. Diane Tucker tells the tale in Favour's first person voice with every reaction to the world around her, which makes it that much brighter; it's a meticulously made quilt with every detail sewn in with care.

If you're looking for a fun book on a boring day, don't read it; it's not an easy read. It needs your heart, and it will take it ... and shred it to pieces.

Resource Links, February 2010, Vol 15, No 3
His Sweet Favour is marketed as a young adult novel. Five grade twelve students are looking forward to graduation, and moving on to fulfilling their dream of sharing a house and starting their own theatre company. But their plans are changed when Leith tells of his experience seeing lights which then spoke to him, “The map has been drawn. Darkness and light must join and be one or every good promise will be broken. Your paths are laid.” (p. 16) This precipitating incident encourages Leith to pursue his previously unrequited affection for Favour, who responds. The situation is complicated when Leith and Favour are cast opposite each other as the romantic leads in the school play, and further complicated by Favour’s feelings for a substitute teacher, and his feeling for the drama teacher.

Although this appears to be the fare of a typical high school romantic drama, the characters in this book are unusually cynical and manipulative. For example, Brady and Maryruth are two of the group who are in a long-term relationship. At a party, Brady pontificates on relationships: “there are two kinds of lover…There is the girl you find pleasant, intellectually stimulating, sexually satisfying…she produces in you balance, harmony, everything in its proper proportion…The other kind of love makes you lose your appetite, your sleep, your mind, but you don’t care. There’s nothing you can do, because someplace in the universe a chemical reaction has taken place. A new substance made. It’s your love and what can you do against the universe? Matter can’t be destroyed, only permutated into different forms…misery, ecstasy, rage. Things are never in harmony.” (p. 48-49) This does not resemble the voice of an 18-year-old. Unsurprisingly, Brady callously exploits Maryruth’s affection (“Maryruth takes care of the ordinary self, leaving me free to concentrate on the higher self” {p.49}) until she is isolated from all her other friends. Favour feels consumed by Leith, and tries to break up with him saying, “I’m disappearing. Like I’m going down the drain an little bit every time.” (p.130) But she decides to have break-up sex with him, and then is surprised by his distress. When he reaches for her, she threatens to call the cops, accuses him of rape, and then knees him in the groin. Then we learn that Brady is using Leith’s premonitions to create a Link, a psychic power play.
None of these characters are likable or believable, including the so-called adults in the novel. The author’s theatre experience provides the only credible moments. — Patricia Jermey

Thematic Links: Friendship; Theatre; Relationships