Blink and Caution by Tim Wynne-Jones, Candlewick Press, 2011, ISBN 978-0-763-639839
Sixteen-year-old Blink (so named because of an unfortunate facial tick) lives on the Toronto streets, stealing food from hotel rooms just to survive. When he witnesses a fake kidnapping in one of the rooms he’s broken into, he’s thrust into a world of corporate espionage and quickly gets in over his head. When he contacts the kidnapped man’s daughter, she convinces him to travel to their cabin in the woods to confirm his suspicions that the CEO engineered his own abduction. Blink goes despite his fear that the girl may be setting him up to get caught.
On his way, Blink meets Caution, a sixteen-year-old girl on the run from her drug-dealing boyfriend. The two immediately connect, even though their relationship begins with Caution stealing all of Blink’s money. Tired of running away from her troubled past, Caution decides to help, rather than rob, Blink and the two set off for the Canadian wilderness to uncover the mystery of the abducted CEO. What they find once they get there is a situation more dangerous than either imagined. It takes all their courage and street smarts to help each other survive and find a way home.
This is a gritty urban story about two tough but damaged kids who must find a way to trust and work together to survive. The chapters alternate between the two main characters, which helps the reader develop an understanding and sympathy for both Blink and Caution. Blink’s chapters are told in the second person, present tense (“The BBU lifts you up. You are no street punk now. Just look at your fine self: your hair plastered down, your hands clean. Curl your fingers up, boy, so they don’t see the nails, ragged from scratching out an existence in this anxious city on the edge of winter.”) This gives those sections a feeling of immediacy, as if the character is talking both to himself and you. Blink is a runaway, doing his best to survive on the streets without help. Caution is also a runaway, but in a completely different situation. She is purposely punishing herself for a tragic mistake she made when she was younger. She is living with a brutal drug dealer, hoping he will punish her for the crime she can’t forgive herself for. Both of the characters are tough, but wounded and vulnerable and the reader quickly wants to see them escape their dangerous situations and return home.
The alternating chapters also help add to the suspense of the book, which starts off with a bang in chapter one with the CEO’s “kidnapping”. Wynne-Jones does an excellent job withholding information so the mystery is intriguing and suspenseful. The two main characters don’t find each other until mid-way through the novel, and when they do they are not the allies the reader assumes they will be, given their similar circumstances. How they learn to trust and rely on each other is as much a part of the story as the mystery of the kidnapping. In many ways, this is a novel about healing as it is an urban crime drama.
Blink is a street punk who witnesses a crime that becomes international news. Caution is a girl on the run from a drug dealer who wants to kill her. When these two damaged individuals meet up on their escape from Toronto, they must find a way to trust each other. If they don’t, they won’t survive the even more dangerous criminals of the corporate world.
Information about the author
From the author’s Wikipedia page we learn that “Tim Wynne-Jones, OC (born 12 August 1948) is an English–Canadian author of children’s literature, including picture books and novels for children and young adults, novels for adults, radio dramas, songs for the CBC/Jim Henson production Fraggle Rock, as well as a children’s musical and an opera libretto.”
Young Adult Fiction
Why does Caution decide to help Blink instead of steal from him?
Do the criminals get away with their crime or are they sufficiently punished for it?
Reading Level / Interest Age
Grade 9 and up
The book is centered on two runaways living on the city streets of Toronto. There is some reference to drugs and sex, but nothing too explicit for young readers. Both characters are trying to find a way to return to their families, which shows how important it is to establish these connections with your parents.
Why did I include this title?
When Blink and Caution first arrived in our library, I picked it up thinking it was another dystopian tale, set in the bleak future. The story is indeed bleak, but it’s told in the present and has two main characters I immediately enjoyed spending time with. The plot is suspenseful and kept my interest the entire time.