Monday, June 13, 2011

Review - Paper Covers Rock

Jenny Hubbard
Delacorte Books for Young Readers
After failing to save his friend Thomas from drowning, poet-boy Alex is overcome with grief. Not wanting to get kicked out of the boarding school they attend, Alex and his buddy Glenn agree to lie about the circumstances that led to Thomas' drowning. However when some of Alex's grief and guilt finds its way into his poetry, his teacher and mentor starts to suspect there's more to the story than what the boys are telling.

I'm not sure what I was expecting out of this novel, but it definitely wasn't what I got -- and that's not necessarily a bad thing. The novel itself is Alex's journal, the one he hides in the library and writes in whenever he can to tell the story of Thomas' death and his insane crush on his teacher/mentor, Miss Dovecott. The book is highly literary, even going so far as to borrow chapter headings from sentences in Moby Dick and referring to Alex sometimes in the first person and sometimes the third. Though I generally really love a more literary style, I expected this type of literary to annoy me. And it did, but not much. The truth is that Alex, though often seeming unrealistic (not as a male voice, but as an actual person, regardless of gender) is exactly the type of character who would reference books he hasn't yet read and pepper his storytelling with lines of poetry.

For such a short book (this clocks it at less than 200 pages, at least in the ARC edition), there's a lot going on here. Not only the aftermath of Thomas' death, but also questions about the sexuality of a few characters in the book, Alex's romantic feelings for the young Miss Dovecott, his family situation, and explorations of faith and lack of faith. There's a lot here and sadly I didn't feel like most of these important themes and subplot were fully explored, which left me feeling a bit unsettled by the end of the story.

Additionally there were a few nitpicky things that really bothered me. It was definitely not believable to me that Alex would be able to remember conversations verbatim the way he did and I also found it difficult to believe that, at only 21 years old, Miss Dovecott would be hired as the English teacher at an all boy's boarding school -- or even that she would be qualified. I suspect this is something that might not bother others, but it definitely rubbed me the wrong way.

That said, I really enjoyed Alex's relationship with Miss Dovecott, especially as he was struggling to find a balance between going along with his friend (Glenn) and working on his poetry with someone who honestly wanted to help him. Though there were definite hints of romance between them, for the most part the plot avoided being completely inappropriate and really added to the story as a whole. I did wish there was more about Thomas (the boy who drowned) in the book, but this is much more a novel about the depths and confusion of friendship than it is about grief, which was  unexpectedly nice. This was definitely, in spite of its faults, a book I enjoyed reading and one I can easily recommend to you.

Paper Covers Rock is out June 14th.

1 comment:

  1. Very insightful review. I actually won this book recently and it sounded interesting. I'm looking forward to reading it!