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Written by James Heneghan

Series Title: CBC Massey Lectures

  • 184 Pages
  • 9780888997043
  • 7.000" x 5.000"
  • Reading age from 10 to 14
  • JUVENILE FICTION / Social Situations / Suicide



Publication Date March 15, 2007

Thirteen-year-old Charley Callaghan is coping with some difficult changes. His family has recently moved to Vancouver from Ireland, and his mother has died of cancer. Now he is desperately trying to fit in - in a new school, a new city, a new country - while holding a part-time job and keeping an eye on his little sister, Annie. Charley’s red hair and Irish accent at first make him a target of the class bullies, but he is tough enough - just - to keep them at bay.

So it is almost a relief to him when the bullies find a new target, Benny Mason. Charley keeps hoping that Benny will defend himself, but he fails to intervene when the bullying worsens. When Benny commits suicide, Charley is overcome with remorse and guilt. He visits Benny’s single mom, Joanna, but instead of confessing, finds himself trying to make amends by doing chores, running errands and befriending Benny’s little brother. Can Charley find atonement for failing to act? James Heneghan’s trademark narrative drive, vivid characters and strong social message make this a striking study of loss and renewal.

Long-listed for the ALA Best Books for Young Adults 2008

Selected for the OLA Best Bets - Reading for Young Adults (Fiction) 2007

Selected for the Capitol Choices: Noteworthy Titles for Children and Teens 2007

Selected for the CCBC Best Books for Kids & Teens 2008 2008


James Heneghan
James Heneghan was raised in Ireland and in Liverpool, England, where he worked as a policeman. After coming to Canada, he was a police fingerprint specialist before becoming a teacher. He has won the Arthur Ellis Award for Juvenile Crime Fiction and is a three-time winner of the Sheila A. Egoff Book Prize for Children's Literature. He lives in North Vancouver, British Columbia.


"...a quietly affecting tale of grief and emotional healing." Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

"...excels in presenting the difficult issue of school bullying and suicide without a heavy dose of adult finger wagging...Heneghan [has created] a gritty and compelling story that reflects an often ignored phenomenon of youth culture in public schools...Payback is a refreshingly honest novel that seriously looks at the experiences of young boys in contemporary junior high school. Highly Recommended." CM Magazine

"...the drama of guilt, sorrow, and redemption is honest and heartfelt, told in Charley's spare, fast, first-person narrative...A good title for group discussion." Booklist

"Heneghan is a wonderful storyteller, with Irish charm evident in the cadence of the narrative, filled with humour and drama." Kliatt

"...realistically portrays how males typically interact with each other...The tragic story of suicide is presented with sensitivity and from the point of view of adolescents. The short chapters, easy to understand adolescent style diction and the realistic plot makes this book a great addition to a classroom/library." Resource Links

"This is a startlingly poignant novel. Charley's compelling, straightforward voice rings true and builds trust in his audience by exposing his most wracking emotions...Readers will find a character or situation to identify with and will admire the means by which Charley achieves some peace of mind." School Library Journal

"In Payback, Atwood freely mixes autobiography, literary criticism and anthropology in an examination of debt as a concept deeply rooted in human - and even, in some cases, animal - behaviour...Building an argument that abounds with literary examples...Atwood entertainingly and often wryly advances the familiar thesis that what goes around comes around." Toronto Star

"Payback is a delightfully engaging, smart, funny, clever, and terrifying analysis of the role debt plays in our culture, our consciousness, our economy, our ecology and, if Atwood is right, our future." Washington Post

"...[Payback is]...a demonstration of Atwood's ability to evoke in memorable detail our vanished cultural past, and to examine both past and present in the form of language. Writing in this mode, she's never off her game." National Post

"...[Payback is] elegant and erudite...As one would expect from a novelist of Ms Atwood's calibre, the phrasing is polished and the metaphors striking."

"...replete with anecdotes and opinions, witticisms and barbs...Payback is more about economic principles, and even the market crisis, than it appears at first glance. As impressive as Atwood's intuitions, or her intellect, or even her humour, is her insistence on tracing responsibilities, and possibilities, back to those human, and thus imaginative, constructions." Globe and Mail

"Elegant and erudite...As one would expect from a novelist of Ms. Atwood's calibre, the phrasing is polished and the metaphors striking." Economist

"Nothing if not timely...Few writers are able to combine the esoteric with the polemic as [Atwood] does...darkly entertaining." Winnipeg Free Press

"Payback is a stimulating, learned and stylish read from an eminent author writing from a heartfelt perspective." Literary Review of Canada

"The lectures remind us of why Atwood has been so important to our literature." Financial Post

"There has been much written about Atwood's 'prophetic vision' and her ability to be eerily 'prescient'...given Atwood's track record, I'm a believer...Either Atwood was born under a lucky star or she really should be moonlighting from a shady storefront with a sign that says 'Palm Readings: $25.'" Rebecca Eckler

""Ms. Atwood is a witty and astute writer of broad sympathy and wide-ranging curiosity, and the prose of the book, at once commonsensical and counterintuitive, bristles with insight and implication."" New York Times