Schema: high school, rite of passage, making decisions
Text-to-Self Connections: making hard choices, learning tolerance
Themes: learning to think for one’s self, rites of passage, respect for all people
Point of View: The book is divided into different sections to hear the main characters thoughts. The reader can see the maturing and growth of the students as the novel progresses.
Book Talk: The novel focuses on a group of very mature high school teens who decide they want to learn through deep discussions and project based learning. They convince their parents to allow them leave a private high school for the local college faculty’s kids and transfer to a local public school where the principal and teachers are open to their ideas to change the world. All of the characters are very intelligent. There’s a mystery involving a death, an older girl-younger boy sexual relationship, friendships, parent-child communication struggles, drug dealers, and other topics that would intrigue teen readers.
The author leans to the liberal side in the dialogue about world issues. Throughout the story the students tackle big food companies over farming food co-ops. They have discussions about how colleges use different types of testing for admission, values about religion versus extremist, political leadership, how people treat and view immigrants, freedom, young love, bi-racial identification, gender identity, bullying, learning to listen and communicate effectively, and “living a life worth living.”
The seniors decide to snap their fingers instead of clapping when they approve of something the teachers or principal says bringing back the memories of the very beatnik sixties. The characters in this book are way cool.
Students age 16+ would enjoy the book. This might be the book to turn a nonreader into a reader if they run across this title and start reading it. It’s a good read and captures the interest of the reader quickly.