Crowe, Chris. Death Coming Up the Hill
7 October 2014, HMH Books for Young Readers
ARC from Baker and Taylor
Ashe is dealing with two wars-- the Vietnam Conflict, which is in the news and his history classroom, and the war between his parents. Ashe's father was a promising football player in college before Ashe's mother got pregnant with him, and the two now fight over everything. The father is very right wing, and the mother has started to go to peace rallies. When a new girl moves to his school (and I have given my ARC away already to our new language arts teacher, so I apologize for not remembering her name), Ashe is intrigued by her views on the war, the fact that her brother is off fighting, and the close and pleasant relationship her family has. When his parents marriage falls apart, Ashe is left with horrible choices.
Strengths: There are very few novels set during this period, and this would be okay for 8th graders, although does come very close to the YA line. Bonus points for construction-- it's all in haiku, with the same number of syllables as there were US military casulties during the conflict. This also explores Civil Rights topics of the era.
Weaknesses: The form, although clever, doesn't add a lot to the story. My students lack basic background on this era, and poetry books don't fill in the information as much as they need to. I found the mother and father to be really reprehensible, which took away from the story for me, and also edged this toward YA. I can't fathom that the mother would have favored an unborn child over her 17 year old son, but if she hadn't made that choice, the book wouldn't have been so dramatic. I don't think I'll buy this title, but high schools should certainly investigate it.