By Laurie Halse Anderson
Tyler’s senior year at George Washington High School promises to start out interesting. He’s spent the summer working with the school’s custodial staff and a local lawn man to make up for the “Foul Deed.”
The Foul Deed, a prank involving spray paint and misspelled words on the high school’s exterior walls, has landed Tyler some bit if notoriety — getting arrested and getting a parole officer is bound to do that. He went from being invisible to being noticed by everyone. Including the girl of his dreams, Bethany, who happens to be the richest and most popular girl in school. It helps that all of his manual labor over the summer has made him into somewhat of a hunk.
Unfortunately for Tyler, once you’re labeled a “bad boy,” people tend to think the worst of you. When Tyler attends a party with Bethany and the next day scandalous nude pictures of her are posted online, everyone blames Tyler, including Tyler’s father. Now he must be man enough to confront his problems instead of running away and his uninvolved father in the process.
This first-person narrative is well paced with excellent character development. Tyler is fully human and the peripheral characters are well developed and add humor to his anger and angst. The situations in which he finds himself are believable and the ending is satisfying to readers even if it is a bit quick and neat.
This book is appropriate for older teens.
“Walking on Glass”
By Alma Fullerton
“Walking on Glass” is the journal of poetry written by an unnamed male narrator. The narrator’s mother attempted to commit suicide and is now in a coma with no hope of recovery. The journal is a tool used in the therapy sessions the narrator is undergoing as a result.
Inside the book are a series of free-verse poems that take you through the heartache of watching a loved one on life support. The narrator struggles with ideas that he did something to make his mother commit suicide and cause his father’s emotional distance. He and his father must choose whether to keep her on life support or “set her free” and turn the machines off. They come to two different conclusions. The narrator also struggles with his lifelong friendship with Jack, and Jack’s more and more violent choices. A single bright spot exist for the narrator in the form of a girl named Alissa who offers the narrator hope and compassion.
The poems offer a stark view into the narrator’s world, but the story would have suffered in any other format. This is a relatively quick read, but readers will get a good sense of the characters as well as their pain. The struggle that the narrator goes through — the constant questioning, the wish for magical cures for his mother, his father’s apparent apathy — is well developed and hits home.
Fullerton has written an excellent first novel. The situation is dramatic, but Fullerton resisted the urge to make it melodramatic by writing too much. The poems feel like they were written by a teenage boy who is self-conscious about the fact that he’s keeping a journal and also willing to let the journal do as his therapist believes it will. This is one to read more than once.
This book is appropriate for teens.
Cari Boatright is the teen librarian at Joplin Public Library.