Tuesday, March 11, 2008

If a Tree Falls at Lunch Period, by Gennifer Choldenko

In alternating chapters, the story of Kirsten and Walk unfolds. Kirsten is struggling with her parents' fighting (and possible divorce) and the loss of her BFF to popular girl Brianna. She copes by eating, which exacerbates her problems. Walk is the only African-American kid in the school and trying desperately to fit in. But just as you get a handle on the story and think it is following tried-and-true YA formula, it veers in a totally unexpected direction. And while this initially seems a bit contrived, it raises issues of much deeper importance than normally handled in a novel like this.

A strikingly mature novel, written in a realistic style, that in the end is a winner. The plot twists do seem a bit forced, but it all works out in the end, even if the characters (realistically) do not manage to work out all of their issues. It's rare to find a book about racial (and other) prejudices that doesn't feel the need to preach. That is one of those books. An excellent read with an excellent message: life is all a bit more complicated that we (especially the adults!) want to make it.

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