Tuesday, March 12, 2013
Book Review: Period.8 by Chris Crutcher
Period 8. An hour a day. You can hang out. You can eat your lunch. You can talk. Or listen. Or neither. Or both.
Nothing is off-limits. The only rule is that you keep it real; that you tell the truth.
Heller High senior Paul Baum--aka Paulie Bomb--tells the truth. Not the "Wow, that's an ugly sweater" variety of truth, but the other kind. The truth that matters. It might be hard. It often hurts. But Paulie doesn't know how not to tell it. When he tells his girlfriend Hannah the life-altering, messed-up, awful truth, his life falls apart. The truth can get complicated, fast.
But someone in Period 8 is lying. And Paulie, Hannah, and just about everyone else who stops by the safe haven of the P-8 room daily are deceived. And when a classmate goes missing and the mystery of her disappearance seeps beyond P-8 and into every hour of the day, all hell breaks loose. (Synopsis from ARC copy, read more at Goodreads.com)
So, I am a Chris Crutcher FAN. Not a fan, but a FAN (read about That Time I Met Chris Crutcher and Sobbed here). On the whole, he tends to do contemporary fiction amazingly well, in part because he is actually in the trenches working with troubled teens. Period.8 turns out to be another captivating read with a little mystery twist that really touches onto some of today's headlines.
Period.8 tells our story in multiple voices, primarily that of Paul, but also of his ex-girlfriend, some of his period 8 classmates, and the ultra-cool teacher "Logs" that hosts Period 8. Period 8 is an informal lunch period that is ungraded where the students all come together in "Logs" classroom to discuss who they are, what they think about the world they live in, etc. When reading the scenes that actually took place in Period 8 I kept thinking of the class discussions that they have in 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher (which would make it a good companion novel).
When the "Virgin" Mary disappears, there is a lot of speculation as to what is happening. Then she reappears, only to disappear again. Mary was on the fast track of Valedictorian and college, but suddenly she seems to be falling apart. What is happening behind the scenes in this small town, and to Mary and a fellow student named Kylie, are truly sinister. And the whodunnit behind it is disturbing; very few teen novels have presented a truly psychopathic teen character (and because I don't want to reveal to much information, I can't talk to you here about the awesome character development or the slow building of tension and stunning reveal, you'll just have to read it.)
There are some implausible elements to Period.8 that require a certain amount of letting go. Although "Logs" seemed very invested in his students and very hip (what student WOULDN'T want him as a teacher?), he really seemed to blur the lines with his students in ways that would get him into serious trouble in today's world. In fact, it is hard to imagine a school even permitting Period 8 and the discussions that happen. I don't know that it would stand out so much to teen readers, but adults will have a hard time suspending disbelief at the teacher's relationship with his students and the lack of follow-up on the couple of incidents that happen (a female student claims to have been at his house around midnight). However, I really recommend letting it go because it is an interesting read.
Period.8 is in many ways classic Crutcher, but it is also something new and different from him. I thought it was a slow start, in part because you have to meet all of the characters and get into their voice, but it becomes a great, sinister thriller with all the insight you expect from a Chris Crutcher novel. 3.5 out of 5 stars. Published March 26, 2013 by Harper Collins. ISBN: 9780061914805 (Please note, this is a Chris Crutcher novel so it has mature language and themes)
SPOILERS FOLLOW . . .
No seriously, spoilers. Don't read this next part until after you read the book.
Recently, we have had a couple of posts by Kim Purcell regarding her book, Trafficked, and the topic of Human Trafficking. Period.8 is an interesting look at human trafficking in a less conventional way. Here, girls aren't snatched off the street, but they are being forced against their will to engage in activities that are destructive to them and will have long term consequences. Again, I don't want to give away too much information, but I think this could definitely be put in a discussion on human trafficking.