My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This book is yet another homerun from Laurie Halse Anderson. Clearly, Ms. Anderson has never forgotten the feelings and experiences associated with being a teenager and having to attend high school. Her books, remind me exactly of how I felt as a teen; stressed, isolated, but surrounded by others. The lead character in this novel is a male; I am not one to spend a lot of time reading books with male protagonist, call me sexist but I think it is more one of interest and perspective. What is also amazing to me is how well developed her lead character, Tyler Miller is in the book. Why am I surprised? Well many times, it is hard enough to write about credible teens let alone ones who are of a different gender. Kudos!
Beyond the usual teen angst of high school; where do I fit in, nerd, jock etc, Tyler has to deal with a house hold that is extremely volatile. HIs father is so angry the entire home walks on eggshells acquiescing to his ever ridiculous whim. His Mother is sweet and often found to drink copious amounts of gin and go to bed with a migraine during his father’s rants. These rants most often focus on Tyler, who has committed the foul deed. At the end of his junior year he spray painted graffiti on the school and was caught. This resulted in his father believing he is always at fault, being treated as a criminal by the police, school, and his parents. This causes increasing problems for him after he does the right thing for a girl he likes at a party and is later treated as a criminal for most of the book.
Tyler is extremely depressed and isolated in the book largely based on his father's world views work experiences and treatment of Tyler. Tyler contemplates suicide in many parts of the book, and it would not be surprising for him to commit it based on the character development and relationships.
The book is realistic and dark at times, it does not mince words or events. I could not put it down. It all culminates with a fantastically written scene and epic final words. I cannot recommend this book more for adults and kids.
One more word about this book: I loathe censorship and was appalled to see the words: "This book is not for children" written at the beginning of the book. I asked the author and she stated it was at the time when there was a push to differentiate between kids lit and YA lit. In my opinion, kids will not read what does not interest them, and this book is no different, your average 8 and 9 year old will have no interest in the experiences of an almost 18 year old student in high school. I have recommended it to my 11 year old daughter because I think she will enjoy it. Honestly, this does not talk about things that kids do not talk about among themselves or hear in school, and I think any time a kid will read a book we have won a tiny battle for literacy.
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