Mills, Claudia. Zero Tolerance.
18 June 2013 Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Sierra Shepherd is a rule follower and an excellent student. When she realizes that she has inadvertently taken her mother's lunch to school, and that there is a paring knife in the bag, she immediately turns it in to the harried lunch lady. Her friends have told her she should have stayed quiet, but that wouldn't have been the right thing to do. Once Sierra gets to the office, she has to deal with the secretary, Ms. Lin, and the principal, Mr. Besser. Mr. Besser is spouting off to a visiting principal about the school's "zero tolerance" policies, so when he finds out that it is Sierra who has brought a knife, she is sentenced to in school suspension until her expulsion hearing at the end of the week. Sierra's lawyer father doesn't help matters by getting testy with Mr. Besser and alerting the news media, effectively tying the principal's hands. Sierra is mortified that she is missing classes, can't compete with the choir, and has to hang out in the office with Luke, a known trouble maker... who is actually kind of cute and nice. Sierra is angry with the school, but also angry with her father, and does some further things that put her actually in the wrong. Her mother doesn't help by looking at a private school. With all of the attention the episode is getting, how can things be resolved?
Strengths: This certainly made me think, and made me angry. Of course the school shouldn't have reacted so harshly, but when schools don't, people get just as upset! I read this after reading about an incident with a seven-year-old and a PopTart gun; in that case, I think the student should have been suspended. When Surly Teen Boy was FIVE, we had very serious talks with him about how he could not draw guns or weapons of any kind for just this reason! So this was realistic and thought provoking.
Weaknesses: Perhaps also a little didactic and laden with anti-school sentiment. A bit. In the end, I'm really not sure about this one. Has anyone else read it?