May 08, 2012
FICTION - JUVENILE: Family & Everyday Life: Social Issues
· Posted at http://pollyanna.pollyanna.blogspot.com; forwarded through Twitter https://twitter.com/#!/pseudandry and http://teacherlibrarian.ning.com
· The review will first be posted the week of March 4, 2012.
· Short summary from http://www.netgalley.com:
What happens when the only escape from crushing despair is betrayal?
It's the hottest summer on record in New Jersey and soon Scilla Davis must stand trial for her involvement in a deadly speedboat accident. With the possibility of conviction looming, life seems empty, unreal, and utterly hopeless. Watching her best friend Willow destroy herself with drugs and booze is especially painful. Yet Scilla can't manage to wrest Willow-or herself-from a path of self-destruction.
With a new drug called Ferocity sweeping the nation, an FBI agent is eager to make a bust. He offers Scilla a way out of this nightmare. But is she willing to betray her own drugdealing boyfriend?
I initially chose this book to review because it is set in New Jersey and so are my students and my school library. I'm glad I chose this book because most teenagers I know, regardless of their relationship -- or lack thereof -- to illegal, recreational drugs, deal with the issues of rebellion or at least of gaining independence from their "parental units." The main character, Priscilla (Scilla) is fraught with peer pressure and questionable self-esteem. The author, Alissa Grosso, does a great job of creating tension based on loyalty vs responsibility.
Scilla and her best friend Willow are financial opposites. Willow is an "upper, middle class" teen whose Mother spoils her in spite of her father's protests, while Scilla must work at the local Quik Mart in spite of a spate of recent robberies. Scilla has an on-again, off-again relationship with Willow's older brother, who is also a rich kid, but he supplements his income by dealing drugs. Scilla describes Willow and Randy's parents as "nutjobs." Scilla lives with her mother, who "always has some reason to be unhappy with me," as well as with Scilla's friendship with Willow.
The story really began the prior summer when the three teens and Randy's friend, Tigue, borrow Tigue's parents' speed boat for a drunken joy ride. They ended up killing a passenger on another small boat. Their trial is at the end of this summer. Though many adults -- a court appointed attorney, her Social Studies teacher, an FBI agent, and her mom -- try to help Scilla maintain a record of good character until the trial begins, Scilla's loyalties are tested as she struggles between what her high, drunk and promiscuous peers expect of her and what the adults expect.
Whether as a matter of fairness, a reflection of humanity, or as a backdrop to highlight Scilla's attributes, the adults in the story are portrayed as flawed as the teens are. Scilla's mom holds a grudge against the upper, middle class; Willow's parents are disciplinary polar extremes; the FBI agent makes a pass at Scilla; and Pablo the Perpetually Stoned is, well, perpetually stoned.
As a bildungsroman, the reader begins to see the beginning of a more mature, more responsible Scilla as the story progresses. However, just as actual teenagers may take more than one summer to grow up, Scilla does not neatly reach her full maturation by the end of the story. This is painfully clear when Scilla doesn't accept Tigue's explanation of his primary culpability for the accident as he describes it in court.
Grosso draws recurring analogies of Scilla as Civil War General William Tecumseh Sherman. Making both military and personal comparisons between Scilla and Sherman distracted me from the story rather than enhanced my experience. Since I am not familiar with Sherman's story, I felt as though I was reading a (wholly unnecessary) frame story. It was as if I had to employ two different reading styles, seesawing back and forth between concentrating on understanding the connections between Scilla and Sherman or simply enjoying the teenagers' tales as they unfolded.
Throughout the novel, I really enjoyed Grosso's snarky, sarcastic, but witty sense of humor. You'll forgive me if I don't list any of them here. I don't want to be like a movie trailer that gives away the punchline before you even get to see the movie.
Remember that this book's premise is peer pressure, complete with sex, drugs, and rock-n-roll, and while they certainly are teen issues, I recommend Grosso's treatment of them for older teens. Unfortunately, though the repercussions are periodically displayed, there are LOTS of drunk driving and under-the-influence driving incidents in the book. At no time do any of the underage teens hesitate to get into a car with any other teen - sober or not. Additionally, Scilla is quite open about her lesbian daydreams. That being said, the teen characters will appeal to real teens, and I will be purchasing this book for my high school's library.