Paper Covers RockSpring 2012 Fiction
Alex is spending a great deal of his junior year in the school library, hiding behind a copy of Moby Dick and writing in his diary. He needs a big book to hide behind, because he has so much to hide-from his headmaster, from his favorite English teacher, from his friends, and from himself. At the beginning of the school year, Alex was at the river when his closest friend drowned; and neither he nor the other boys there saved him. They were all too tipsy. Now, Alex is burdened with secrets. At first, he thinks the only secret is that all of the boys were drinking and should be expelled, not just the one openly gay student who served as an easily bullied scapegoat. But the more he thinks and writes, the more he wonders about the motives of his friend Glenn, the star student and athlete. Why is Glenn bent on threatening Miss Dovecott, the English teacher whom everyone else loves? To make things even more complicated, Miss Dovecott seems to have "discovered" Alex's writing abilities since the tragedy; she keeps encouraging him to develop his poetic talent, but the more he writes, the more he seems to reveal.
Alex's narrative, told through his journal entries, combines gripping mystery, reflective poetry, and school story peer drama in one novel. Hubbard does an especially good job of portraying the complexity of relationships between students and teachers and between teenaged frenemies. The journal format works especially well for this novel, because readers are forced to work through the same issues that Alex is processing, at more or less the same pace. The desire to solve the mystery is constantly balanced with Alex's need to deny and repress the knowledge he is developing. Young readers will enjoy reading this novel and discussing the multiple issues of teenage sexuality that it raises.