Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Whee! Dysfunction!

No, Eliot Schrefer's The School for Dangerous Girls is not related to Ally Carter's Gallagher Girls series at all, although the cover is really similar. Angela has made some really poor decisions, and as a result, he father and stepmother have decided to send her to Hidden Oak, a school for girls with severe behavioral problems. She doesn't think that she should be there and balks at following all of the bizarre rules the school has. Discipline is tough, but the unrestricted behavior of the other students is what is toughest. After a series of missteps, Angela is relegated to the "purple thread"; girls whose behavior is considered beyond fixing. The abuse these girls inflict upon one another is so intense that Angela, with the help of a teacher's son, tries to break out and warn her parents and the community about what is really going on at Hidden Oak. This was a riveting read, even though I really disliked most of the teachers. It wouldn't have worked had they been nice! Students love this sort of depressing book, so if April Henry's Shock Point and Todd Strasser's Boot Camp circulate well, this is a book you should get. I certainly will.

The newest Todd Strasser , If I Grow Up, was even more depressing, although the cover is really great. It will be a big hit with my students. DeShawn lives in the Douglas projects, and is pretty lucky. He does well enough at school to be recommended for an academically advanced program. His mother has been killed, but he has a caring grandmother who takes care of him and his sister. As he gets older, however, circumstances lead him to get involved in gang activities, although he knows this is not a good idea. His sister has twins, and then their father is killed. DeShawn's friends start to run with the gangs. He sees children and mothers killed, promising children descend into drug-addicted hazes, and his own options dwindling. Eventually, he drops out of school to work for the local drug lord, Marcus. When Marcus is killed, DeShawn steps into increasingly important leadership roles within the gang. It doesn't end well.

Students who like The Outsiders and Strasser's Can't Get There From Here will like this one. I don't understand why suburban middle schoolers want to read about inner city gang activity, but they do, and this will fill the bill, even though the tone was rather didactic. The students won't notice.

After my eating disorder book marathon two nights ago, and these two books, I need something a lot lighter to read tonight, although I'm too spoiled by good writing for anything like a Candy Apple Books marathon. Unearthed a copy of the sequel to Karen in the storeroom; maybe that will be uplifting.


  1. I'm reading IF I GROW UP aloud to my 8th graders. They are really getting into it.

  2. I've really been looking forward to reading School for Dangerous Girls. Glad to see you enjoyed it!