About the book...
Seventh-grader Sierra Shepard has always been the perfect student, so when she sees that she accidentally brought her mother's lunch bag to school, including a paring knife, she immediately turns in the knife at the school office. Much to her surprise, her beloved principal places her in in-school suspension and sets a hearing for her expulsion, citing the school's ironclad no weapons policy. While there, Sierra spends time with Luke, a boy who's known as a troublemaker, and discovers that he's not the person she assumed he would be--and that the lines between good and bad aren't as clear as she once thought.
I opened this book looking for a great afternoon read and walked away with a lot more than I bargained for....in a GOOD way!
First up, we're in the land of Middle Grade fiction, so while I ADORE this part (and several others ^_^) of the reading landscape, some turn up their nose...and at the very least, don't expect to uncover something that will really give them pause. This one...GIVES YOU PAUSE. It takes the headline of ZERO TOLERANCE from the news feeds and puts it front and center in a real-life-oh-my-gosh-that-could-happen-to-my (insert relation here) type of situation that boggles the mind. Here we have an ace student, an all around "American girl" who stands by her friends, pitches in when extra hands are needed, and leads others by example...until the faithful day. One wrong grab of the lunchbox later. One instance of 100% trust placed in those adults surrounding them to understand the action, reaction and innocence behind what just occurred. One split decision to save face....I mean, stick to the rule book with no bending whatsoever. One child's life changed forever.
Now, I know that last part sounds ominous and in some situations COULD actually be in the worse sense of the words, but this is not one of those cases. This is one of those times when thinking things through, considering their past and current circumstances, LISTENING to what they are telling you (as well as their friends/family/etc) and using sound judgement as opposed to a black/white rule of consequence would work wonders and show more strength, more affirmative action than blindly following words on a page. I get it. The principal was backed in a corner, but why should the child suffer for that? Suck it up; he's the adult. Seek the proper channels to get it all "documented" up the way you'd prefer but don't leave such a public scathing for the child in question. It's a hard battle presented that turns into a much bigger media event than it needed to be (but kudos to Dad for pulling in the "big guns" AND the Sierra for showing more backbone than the whole lot) and in the end puts everyone in their place for better or worse with a new appreciation for the ability granted to all human beings....the ability to think, feel, and instigate change.
Mr. Besser (the principal) is an okay enough fellow, but hiding behind policy without thinking, reasoning, heck discussing what actually happened even, paints a bit of a yellow stripe down his back for me. Mr. Shepherd, Sierra's father, is not a man to trifle with in the courtroom, but involve his little angel and...well, let's just say the BEST EVER Fourth of July celebration would have less fireworks. *ahem* Now, Mrs. Shepherd, Sierra's mom, is almost the polar opposite of her other half. She's more artsy, laid back and while she stands by her daughter 100%, she's less confrontational....offering a balance of sorts but also creating a bit of a tug-o-war when things get hairy here. It's interesting to see how their marriage is affected by everything that's playing out; another instance of real life being well represented. I won't even get into the person that is Ms. Lin, the school secretary. She is wronged in more ways than Sierra's misstep but she is a hard character to "love" overall.
|Author Claudia Mills|
ARC for review courtesy of Ksenia at MacMillan Children's Publishing Group. (THANKS!) For more information about this title as well as their ever growing catalog of wonders, be sure to stop by their official site, blog, Facebook and Twitter pages. To discover more about the writing world of author Claudia Mills, pay a visit to her site or check out what's going on at the present over at her blog. This title was released just this month via Farrar, Straus and Giroux, so be on the look out for it on a bookstore shelf near you.
Until next time....happy reading!