Sunday, September 18, 2016

An Eighth Grade Tragedy

Cally is having a difficult year. Her mother's illness has disrupted the family. When Tristan, a social outcast, sends her a long serious note, she asks her friends for advice, which is no substitute for adult guidance. Their advice leads to tragedy.

The book follows the lives of the students involved in the incident through their high school careers focusing on Junior and Senior years when the tragedy begins to take it's toll on their lives. A young teacher, Molly Nicoll is caught up in the lives of the students. As a young teacher, she has trouble finding her place between the experienced faculty and the students and tries hard to befriend the students wanting them to like her.

The teenagers are well portrayed. The author manages to bring out the pitfalls of adolescence when teens have too much money and time and little guidance from their busy parents. I found the portraits of the older teachers and school administrators stereotypical. Some teachers are burnt out, but others have enthusiasm and are able to communicate a love of learning to their students. The parents in the book were uniformly unavailable either through illness, work, or pleasure. Being consumed with their own lives left little time for their children's needs.

The book is appropriate for older teens, although I'm sure younger teens will also be fascinated by the view of high school. Teachers could profit from reading the book. It tells the story of children at risk very well. However, the group I think would benefit most from reading this book is the parents of teens. Parenting is not an easy job and when you slough it off through preoccupations with your own life you are risking tragedy for the whole family.

I received this book from Penguin Random House for this review.