Friday, May 07, 2010

Nothing but the truth - A documentary novel

It is ironic how timely my reading of this book has become. This last week a story came out about some high school students who were sent home for wearing t-shirts with the American flag. This was followed up with a media frenzy, radio talk show tirades, and school administrators passing around blame on lower level officials. The similarities between this book and news events are so striking it is almost eerie.

This story was originally published in 1991. It is about a young boy who wants to get on the high school track team, his one true interest in school. But he has a big problem. He is failing his English class and cannot try out for the team. He then decides he must transfer to a different teacher who will make things easier for him. Over the next week, the boy hums along with the national anthem as it is played over the speakers. This is in defiance (?) of the instructions to stand at respectful silence while it is played. Or is it?

It is unclear that the boy's humming was his intentional plan to get transfered to a different English class. But his actions result in a political furor when he is suspended for disruptive behavior. A media frenzy erupts and lives are changed. The author leaves it up to you to decide what the truth is, dropping hints about individuals' true motivations. The reader can also observe a break down of true communication in which each individual only hears what they want or expect to hear rather than the truth. The story ends rather sadly because no one tells the truth.

I am still digesting this book. It won a Newberry to critical acclaim. BUT, it is not a book that the average teenager would pick up. As a "documentary" novel, most of the text is written as a screen play interspersed with school memos, diary entries and letters. IOW, it's different enough that I would expect teenagers to completely ignore it unless compelled to read it. Also, it is sad. In this era of fantasy young adult literature, it's not very appealing. The book has relevance though, so maybe it should still be on the shelf.

Book Rating: 3 stars

The books I select for review are books which I personally select from my local library. I do not receive any reimbursement from authors or publishers or free books. I do provide links to Amazon as a convenience to the readers of this blog. I do earn a small referral pittance which is not even enough to buy a soda.

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