“As She Grows explores some of the coping strategies teens are forced to employ when the reality of their lives has become too painful to face head-on, As Snow's urge towards self-destruction is heightened by depression, she lunges at any opportunity, no matter how hollow or damaging, to escape her misery. It is a testament to Cowan's sensitivity as a writer that while her novel creates plenty of empathy for her character, it never attempts to make the reader feel guilty for his or her own life luck. Instead, As She Grows draws the reader inside its heroine's head. Once we're there, Cowan shows us what potential and charm sometime lie behind ordinary facades.”
Noel Rieder The Gazette, Montreal, 19 April 2003
"A courageous and powerful exploration of one young woman's heartbreaking struggle against the likelihood of family history repeating itself. An amazing story — told with such unwavering intensity that it's impossible to put this book down"
Camilla Gibb, April, 2003
“While she tackles grim terrain, Cowan's writing style can be quite lyrical. The book's first few sentences, in which a very young Snow journeys with her mother's ashes, comprise one of the most beguiling openings encountered in some time. As She Grows is a confident and powerful first novel. Cowan is an author well worth watching.”
McGill News, Summer Reading List
"It's hard not to love writer Lesley Anne Cowan's first novel, As She Grows. Cowan, a high-school teacher for at-risk youth in Toronto, has drawn from the real life drama and trauma she sees in the classroom every day and put it on the page in bold-faced, unflinching prose. Cowan, who clearly knows her stuff and shows it to us starkly, does a fine job of telling an all-too-familiar' story. Snow, the other girls in her group home and the "support network" of grown-ups she desperately rifles through, all feel like real people and not cardboard cutouts. Even when Cowan veers into the maudlin, it feels right: Teenage girls, especially troubled ones, are often melodramatic - they pretty much invented the genre.
Though Snow is hardly idealized, it's clear the author is in love with her and isn't shy about it. In one passage, Snow in a ratty blue hoodie in a counselor’s office incarnates the Virgin Mary. But still, Cowan is too wise to give her beloved character a happy ending, or any ending at all. In fact, it's the raw, unfinished-miss of the story's last few pages' that makes Snow stick
with the reader. It's as though Cowan didn't know how to finish her, or didn't want to, or couldn't bear to."
Melora Koepke, HOUR MONTREAL QC MAGAZINE, April 17, 2003
As She Grows .. This novel should be read by any youth service worker or anyone thinking of entering such a field to get an accurate glimpse of the real lives of teenagers like Snow and her friends and acquaintances, and the vicious cycles of poverty and abuse...Lesley Anne Cowan has presented what appears to be a shockingly realistic portrayal of not only the youths themselves buat those who assist them in group homes and counsellors’ offices. Although depressing at times, Snow’s character reaches out to the reader and pulls us in to explore this world. It all comes down to one of Snow’s insights:
How do you describe love, good love, to someone who has never known it? It’s like describing snow to someone who’s never seen it. (255-256)
Joelle M. d'Entremont, Cercles©2003, Cercles Review circles.com
Reviews for As She Grows
Something Wicked is populated with a variety of realistic characters who are both layered and flawed, starting with Melissa who is tough yet sensitive, to her mother who is flighty but loving, to her boyfriend who is caring yet distant. Tying this book to Cowan’s first novel are the secondary support characters who also helped Snow (from Cowan’s first novel As She Grows) with her troubles, such as Eric the counselor and Mrs. Dally the teacher at the school for troubled teens. Although these characters play small roles in the novel, it’s clear that these are people who can make a huge difference in a troubled teen’s life. As we follow Melissa on her decent into depression, and then as she struggles to make her way back, it’s easy to get wrapped up in the story and forget that this is actually a fictional tale. With natural dialogue and real-life drama, Something Wicked is a well-written cross-section of a difficult of life that’s been spread open for us to witness. (With a Good Book, 2010)
“From the author of the moving debut novel, As She Grows comes the second installment in a series of Canadian YA novels about at risk teens, entitled Something Wicked. Like she did with the first novel in the series, Lesley Anne Cowan has written a powerful book for young adults that draws from high literary art and the day-to-day experiences of the troubled teens she teaches to deliver something with which at risk teens can identify. However, the appeal of this series goes beyond those dealing with these issues to bring compassion and understanding to the plight of young girls, who suffer from depression and cope with substance abuse and promiscuity. In short, you won’t regret picking up this novel.” Melissa,
Something Wicked is also part of Point of View (www.penguin.ca/pov), a new program from Penguin Books for Young Readers. Point of View aims to highlight books that don’t shy away from the reality of the lives of teenagers who struggle to succeed in school and life. These books act as a tool in starting dialogues between adults and teens.
“Something Wicked is a dark and emotional story that will touch readers from all walks of life…I’ve read and really enjoyed both of Lesley’s books (As She Grows and Something Wicked), which focus on troubled teenage girls. I have friends with teen daughters going through some of these issues, and I found both books to be very enlightening. I think it’s important that the stories of these troubled young girls be told, and Lesley has done a wonderful job of providing some insight to what can be a very confusing situation for those on the outside.”
“By day, Lesley Anne Cowan teaches in the Toronto District School Board, spending every day with high risk students. By night, she’s an accomplished author who’s 2003 debut, As She Grows dealt with the difficult issue of teen pregnancy. Seven years later, Cowan’s back, tackling equally tough issues with her latest book. Something Wicked tells the story of the self-destructive Melissa, a troubled teen dealing who deals with her broken family, broken relationships and broken promises. Cowan’s complex coming-of-age tale is heartbreaking and hopeful, and a wonderful read.” Erin Balser,
“Something Wicked…With this follow-up to her highly acclaimed 2003 novel, As She Grows, Toronto-based Lesley Anne Cowan continues her hard-edged series about at-risk youth. Few teenagers think of their own existence as smooth and carefree, but Melissa, the 16-year-old at the centre of Something Wicked, has enough trouble to last most people a lifetime: unstable, despair-scarred relationships, a growing problem with booze and drugs, and the lasting trauma of a younger brother’s death. As Melissa moves through the same system of group homes, counsellors, probation officers, and judges described in As She Grows, Cowan shows how every file number conceals a unique search for hope.”
Vancouver’s online source, www.straight.com
“Something Wicked is a rare opportunity to see inside the mind of someone struggling. Although dark, it is realistic and a real eye opener!...If you have ever tried to help someone fighting their own demons, you will know that trying to use reason/logic seems to go nowhere, that it's like they need to hit rock bottom before they are willing to accept defeat; Melissa is no different. She is such a believable character, and given all her struggles, one can't help but feel angry at her for her choices and horrible for her when things so wrong…When reading, I wondered if passing this book along to someone struggling would help, knowing they aren't alone while at the same time showing then an outside look, how bad decisions affect you and how you have the power to take control of your life! The brilliance of this novel lies in its simple message about growing up that I think ANY teen can relate too.
“… Either way, I am glad I was awarded the chance to review such a poignant and emotional book… This was a darkly passionate story of a teen who has trouble coping with her dead-beat mother and depression that has not truly been taken care of even though she’s seeing a counselor on a weekly basis. The scenes with the counselor were some of my favourites by the way. It was the only time Melissa seemed to really be true to herself.” (Cat, www.beyondbooks.ca)
“Something Wicked is a tough, gritty look at a young girl's life as she descends into a world of sex, drugs, alcohol, and self-destruction. To say I was completely hooked from the beginning is an understatement; I went way beyond that, even underlining sentences that struck me personally, breaking my hard-and-fast rule of never bending corners in my books or highlighting my pages. But this gritty look at Melissa's life was also inspiring, full of hope, full of self-deprecating humour, that I thoroughly enjoyed it from beginning to end.”
“It's Ms. Cowan's literary style that really makes this novel exemplary… The figurative language also captures your attention.”
“Something Wicked is a wonderful, gritty, intriguing novel. It's not a novel for the tenderhearted who are looking for a fairytale ending, but it tells the truth about those who succumb to a world of drugs, sex, and alcohol addiction and are trying to end a vicious cycle of abuse, because they know death only awaits them. Some may find this book terrifying because they may see Melissa in themselves and that may frighten them. I found this novel absolutely fascinating, and although I wanted to have the great ending, I was still nonetheless satisfied as this one is realistic and deals with the truth. I am looking forward to many more novels by this author.” (www.curlingupbythefire.blogspot.com)
“I think the book deals with a lot of hard issues and problems that teens today face every day. As a parent of young kids it was a look into a life I don't know much about but I am sure that goes for a lot of parents out there. It is a world that most parents are not privy to.”
“Lesley Anne Cowan is probably one of the best YA novelists that you haven’t heard of yet.”