Coming of age novels are legion in young adult fiction. Good
ones, though, are rare. Good ones with a male protagonist are
practically an endangered species. Jenny Hubbard's Paper Covers Rock
is one of those.
Alex (16) has just started writing in a journal his father gave
him when he started boarding school. Now he has something to write,
something a lot less idyllic than what he's sure his dad had in mind.
A classmate, Thomas, has died. Alex was there when it happened. And
it's a lot more complex than the story one could read in the newspapers.
For one thing, the official version of the incident involves a
cover up. Four boys had been swimming and diving in a river. All had
been drinking in violation of the school rules. Thomas' autopsy would
bring that to light. Alex and Glenn, a popular classmate he alludes
to as "Golden Boy" while he calls himself "Solid Kid", deny drinking,
letting Clay take the rap and get expelled.
Alex is not sure he knows all the answers. He could have been
quicker at getting help. If he had perhaps Thomas would still be
alive. And was the death totally an accident? There were rumors...
Finally, the boys were not the only ones at the river that
fateful day. The young English teacher Alex has a crush on, Miss
Dovecott, may have seen more than she lets on. Glenn sees her
continued presence at school as a threat. When she takes an interest
in Alex's writing Glenn sees the opportunity to put her into the kind
of compromising position that would have caused a teacher to be
terminated instantly in the 1980's, using his conflicted classmate as
The journal format is highly effective. Details about the
incident and the events leading up to it merge seamlessly with Alex's
emotional discovery and growth. This is a perfect read for a lover of
mystery with the maturity to understand that sometimes life doesn't
fall into blacks and whites, but rather a wide range of greys.
On a personal note, I can hardly wait til Giffords (ice cream stand)
opens with a new flavor. :-)
A great big shout out goes out to Stephen King, Maine author and
philanthropist extraordinaire, who will share his half birthday with
me on March 21st.
Julia Emily Hathaway
Sent from my iPod