Oct 21, 2010

Book Review: Scrawl by Mark Shulman

5 very good oatmeal butterscotch chip cookies--YUM!

Cover Love: Yes. It captures the feeling of the book very well and is appealing to all YA readers (boys & girls).

Why I Wanted To Read This: I read this post by Mark Shulman on the MacMillian Kids blog. It was an interesting post but I didn't think much about the book until it came in my October Junior Library Guild box. The cover attracted me and I started reading it as I took it out of the box. Here's the synopsis from Good Reads:

When eighth-grade school bully Tod and his friends get caught committing a crime on school property, his penalty--staying after school and writing in a journal under the eye of the school guidance counselor--reveals aspects of himself that he prefers to keep hidden.

I Kept Reading Because: It was really good. The author writes in Tod's voice and I got sucked right in. I couldn't just read straight through because it was sad (not cry sad, just depressing) to be in Tod's world the whole time.

Romance?: Not really--A few tiny hints at one but some really good bromance.

What I Liked (& Didn't): I liked how the author gives us crumbs to follow. He alludes to what Tod did to get into detention but we don't really find out until the end. And by the time we find out what he did I didn't feel the reason really mattered. What Tod did made sense for him.

I didn't like how Tod had no hope, but it made the story realistic. He is a very smart kid, but why would he imagine a life outside of what he knows. He lets us know that is not realistic to him and when he runs across kids who are dreamers he kind of just shakes his head at them.

I am sure he got so tired of teachers telling him he has potential (in fact, when we meet him I think most teachers are just tired of him as well) when he doesn't believe he can do anything with his smarts. It made me sad.

I did like how he had a small change of attitude when he started getting to know Luz. It wasn't like he had something to believe in, just more of a purpose for a little bit of time. I just hated how Tod was in the mold and almost nobody in charge wanted to give him even an inch to try and get out of that mold.

Tod was also so typical in his narrow view of where kids belong in the school and what they might become when they grow up. I realize this is such a teenager thing, but it always bothers me. I am not sure whether or not my high school experience was normal, but most of the popular kids in my class did go on to make something of themselves. Granted, most people moved ahead and found something that gave them satisfaction. Nobody totally set the world on fire, but growing up is not as dismal as Tod thinks it will be. (I live in Montana though, pretty far from anything that can be considered "inner city").

Thankfully, it was a feel good ending. Not a magical "everything is perfect" ending, just a few good things for Tod. I don't know that he will be a changed kid, but we can imagine what we like from the ending. The ending didn't bring me down any further and I was grateful for that. There is hope...

This is such a strongly written book. My review is sounding like it is depressing, it's not. It is such a great view into the head of a kid considered a "bully." I think the most interesting part is that there were things that happened that made you realize Tod was also bullied--by some peers and by his own administration. The adult bullying is way more subtle than the physical bullying Tod does, but it is totally there.

What I Would Like To See: I highly doubt this will be a series, there really isn't any need for it to be but here is what I imagine: Tod ends up with a scholarship that allows him to make it through college--even just a small junior college. I would love for him to form a few more relationships and I want him to have hope and feel some success.

To Sum Up: This is not a downer of a book. It is well written and Tod is an excellent voice. This is a book that will appeal to a wide range of upper MG and YA readers.

1 comment:

  1. Rita McAvoy8:14 PM

    Dear Jana,

    As soon as I read your post I checked out a copy of Scrawl and I agree it is a superior book. I'm 54 years old and it spoke to me directly. What a powerfull voice! What a memorable character! I don't know what else Mark Shulman has written but I am definitely in his camp. Thank you, Jana, for another great post.