Author: Jenny Hubbard
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary, Poetry
Publisher: Delacorte Press, Random House Inc.
Release: June 14, 2011
Sixteen-year-old Alex has just begun his junior year at a boys' boarding school when he fails to save a friend from drowning in a river on campus. Fearing the consequences if they reveal the whole truth about what happened, Alex and his friend Glenn, who also witnessed the accident, decide to lie. Plagued by guilt, Alex takes refuge in the library, telling his tale in a journal he hides behind a copy of Moby-Dick.
But the boys were not the only ones by the river that day. In the midst of their panic, Miss Dovecott, a young English teacher fresh out of Princeton, happened to arrive.
Over the next few weeks, Miss Dovecott begins to recognize poetic talent in Alex; she helps him find his voice, and he is thrilled by his teacher's special attention. But when it becomes obvious that Miss Dovecott has noticed glimmers of guilt in Alex's writing, Glenn is convinced that she is out to get them. Now Alex must choose between his friend and his mentor. But every decision has it's consequences.
Jenny Hubbard has drawn on her skills as poet, playwright, and teacher to create this poignant story, which captures a world where the line between the code of silence and the code of honor is not always clearly drawn.
Alex Stromm was one of four boys at the river the day Thomas died. Unlike Glenn, Alex isn't in the spotlight, nor does he want to be. But Alex's talent for writing poetry gains him attention from his English teacher. He uses this talent to work through his guilt over Thomas' death.
Glenn Everson is the Golden Boy, always in the spotlight. Perfect in athletics and academics; he's someone everyone respects and looks up to. Suspecting that their English teacher knows more than she's letting on about what happened at the river, Glenn comes up with The Plan to get her out of the school.
Haley Dovecott is Alex and Glenn's English teacher. She notices promising talent in Alex and becomes like a mentor to him. She also happened to be near the river on the day Thomas died. She heard yelling and went to see what was wrong. Not knowing what she really saw, she subtly tries to get more information from Alex and Glenn.
Thomas Broughton was told to jump off the rock, not dive. But having drunk way more vodka than he should have impaired his judgment. He dove and hit his head on the rocks in the river and died. He is survived by his parents and younger brother, Trenton.
In this book Alex struggles with whether he should keep his silence or let the truth be known about that day at the river and Thomas' death. Alex feels guilt over Thomas' death because he believes he didn't do everything in his power to save him. But in a way, Alex does break his silence when he writes about that day, and the events after, in the journal his father gave him. Whether that is good enough is up to interpretation. I believe that speaking out is too hard for some people, but if they can find another way---like Alex with his writing---it's just as good as actually saying the words. It's out there in some way, shape or form.
The main element in this story is Alex's guilt. The author [Jenny Hubbard] has Alex express and work through his guilt in writing. Whether it's in his journal or homework assignments---his poetry. She even has his use running on the cross country team as a way to work though it. For a lot of people writing is the best and easiest way for them to express themselves, and I thought that that was the best way the author could have used to show Alex coming to grips with this subject. It's realistic and honest.
The book takes place at Birch School, an all boys' boarding school.
Alex doesn't like the image a boarding school gives those who attend, because people automatically think you're a delinquent and are there because you did something wrong.
There is a sense of brotherhood within the dorms. Since you're with these guys everyday a bond is formed. Though it's not a place that's easily accepting of those who are gay.
For Alex, the river represents death and the loss of innocence. Though he does go back to the river after Thomas' death, it's not easy for him.
And the cross country track is a place where Alex can just let it all go for a while and run. There's also a sense of achievement as Alex's run times continue to improve.
My Final Thoughts:
I was kind of surprised when I began reading that it takes place in the 1980's. Most recent releases I've read have either taken place in the present or the future. I liked how the author used writing as a way for Alex to express himself. Although the poetry was a little difficult for me to understand, but I've never really been good at understanding poetry, so it's not a real negative for the story. All in all, I really liked this book.
Chapter Seven, Page 72
"Writing is about making choices, Miss Dovecott says. One word or phrase or title over another. So many options that they're almost overwhelming. Which is why it is sometimes so easy to grab the cliche, to reach out to what is familiar. But don't. Because metaphor is all about the comparison of two unfamiliar, unlike things."
About this Author:
In the summer of 2009, Jenny spent ten happy days at Vermont College of Fine Arts under the expert tutelage of Kathi Appelt, to whom much is owed. A published poet and playwright, Jenny taught English to high-school and college students for seventeen years before retiring to write full-time. Her first novel for young adults, Paper Covers Rock, will be published by Random House in 2011. (You may visit her at www.papercoversrock.co.) Represented by Jonathan Lyons of Lyons Literary LLC, Jenny is currently working on young-adult novel #2 in Asheville, North Carolina, where she lives with her math-teacher husband. When not at her desk, Jenny enjoys taking walks, going to plays, and working the New York Times crossword puzzle.