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Review: Period 8 by Chris Crutcher

Monday, March 25, 2013
Period 8
Chris Crutcher

1 Star: Not Recommended
Hardback: 320 Pages
Publication: March 26, 2013 by Harper Collins

Paul "the Bomb" Baum tells the truth. No matter what. It was something he learned at Sunday School. But telling the truth can cause problems, and not minor ones. And as Paulie discovers, finding the truth can be even more problematic. Period 8 is supposed to be that one period in high school where the truth can shine, a safe haven. Only what Paulie and Hannah (his ex-girlfriend, unfortunately) and his other classmates don't know is that the ultimate bully, the ultimate liar, is in their midst.

This book is supposedly about the "ultimate bully." Picking up this book, I expected a gritty contemporary about the dark side of high school and teenagers struggling with moral conflicts. What I got was a high school drama overloaded with hormones and teenage angst.

The plot is dull and disorganized. The story is introduced seemingly with the assumption that we know who the characters area. There's a reason why it's often discouraged to start a story with dialogue. We don't know anything about the characters or the plot yet. It would have been fine if enough backstory was given along with the dialogue, but it isn't. The same trend continues throughout the novel with the dialogue dominating the text. Several chapters into the plot, I still had no idea what was going on.

When I was wondering where the bully was, I find out that this is more of a crime novel (but not really) than a bully novel, a girl goes missing and suddenly reappears, refusing to talk about what happens to her, and a bunch of other messed-up things happen. This actually could have been an interesting novel if it focused more on the mystery/crime/thriller aspect and did a better job of setting up the context, such as setting up character motivation, grounding the story more, and elaborating more on what was going on. There can be such thing as too much detail, but in this case there was far too little.

Period 8 felt like a confessional. Rather than being an eighth period at the end of the day, it's a group that meets up at lunch to discuss whatever they want to talk. For the most part, it's about their own problems, and private arguments often get mixed up in this class. I didn't like how the students talk. Not only is their language littered with cuss words, they often talk down to one another. At one point early on in the novel, the boys even make excuses about why a guy might cheat on his girlfriend. They also call a girl "Virgin Mary" just because they think she hasn't had sex before, which apparently is very unusual at their school. Their attitudes and actions were a shocker for me because I don't live in that kind of world, and it doesn't seem like a healthy environment. There's so much angst and hormones flying around. That's the most color the characters have. For the most part, they're flat and either boring or plain annoying. I never felt as though I really got to know any of them, which was especially hard because the story often changed perspectives for no apparent reason. All it did was make me more annoyed at certain characters after being suddenly bombarded with their personal problems.

On the whole, this book was one big headache for me. I won't be recommending it.

An ARC was provided by Harper Collins for review.

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