A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this book depicts high school life with devastating accuracy, and uses an unusual, intriguing format. Teenagers easily understand the situation, recognize the characters, and enjoy the book -- even when it's required.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Philip Malloy, a freshman, causes a disturbance at school by humming the National Anthem to annoy his teacher -- and the minor incident turns into a national scandal when the teacher is accused of being unpatriotic. The tale is told through a series of journal entries, letters, and memos.
Is it any good?
Readers who pick up this book will be struck first by the unusual format; Avi calls this book "a documentary novel." It consists of a collection of memos, dialogues, diary entries, newspaper articles, letters, and transcripts of speeches and radio shows. Avi lets readers make their own judgments about what happens, but only the reader knows the whole story. Philip's fellow students easily figure out what really happens, and taunt him, punishing him more than the school authorities can.
Yet branding Philip as the only dishonest character won't work. Philip's parents go along with his lies to support him and look patriotic, instead of finding out what their son really needs. Because so few want to find the truth, Miss Narwin loses her career and Philip loses his friends and his dream. He's finally forced to tell the truth in the devastating last line of the book.
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