Wednesday, September 21, 2011


Hello again, y'all!

This week's review
Title:  Happenings
Author:  Katie Cobb
Target Audience:  12 and up (according to the publisher)
Reading Level:  8th grade (according to a formula I found online)
Main Characters:
   Kelsey Gene Blackwell:  17-year-old senior
   Mrs. Delaney:  Advanced Placement English teacher
   Russ Blackwell:  Kelsey's older brother, and legal guardian

Kelsey's mother is "away" dealing with depression, and her father died of an aneurysm.  So she lives in her family house with her older brother Nathan, who is in medical school).  Her other older brother, Russ, was appointed her guardian by dad's will, but he lives with his wife and two children.  It's second semester of Kelsey's senior year in high school.  The book starts in the middle of things with Kelsey's best friend upset at her about her decision.
Last semester, Advanced Placement (AP) English was tough.  Two difficult books a month, engaging discussions, writing assignments and challenges to think made the class like college--Kelsey and her classmates would have no problem testing out of freshman English.  Suddenly, Mrs. Delaney is just handing out worksheets and sitting at her desk.  Although Kelsey is good at English and knows she'll be able to pass the AP test without the extra help, she knows some of the other students need the extra help and need the financial help of not needing the class in college.  At lunch one day, Drew, one of the AP English students, makes a suggestion--a peaceful protest.  No one will do any classwork or homework until Mrs. Delaney goes back to teaching like she did before.  All of the students agree, and the protest begins.  No one expects it to last more than that one class period, but it doesn't end.  As parents find out and zeroes are given for worksheets, quizzes, and tests, some of the students seem to want to end it, but can't figure out how--with all of these zeroes, even if they started doing work again, even Kelsey has no hope of passing the class, much less other students who aren't as good at English.  Russ punishes Kelsey for her involvement in the protest with a series of envelopes which each include a different punishment.  He gives one envelope for each day the protest continues (after he finds out because the school notifies students' parents/guardians they are in danger of failing AP English) promising her that the fifth envelope WILL end her involvement.  He tries to convince her to work even if the other students won't.  But Kelsey is torn, feeling that she can't abandon her friends.
Most of the students want to end the protest, especially after they find out the circumstances behind the change in Mrs. Delaney--turns out her husband is dying of cancer.  She attempted to transfer the AP class to another teacher, but no one else was willing or had the certification.  The students find it especially difficult to end the proposal when Mrs. Delaney is absent for several days, so they can't talk to her.
The protest eventually ends about two weeks later after Kelsey offers Mrs. Delaney a proposal--they'll help do chores, cook dinner, and sit with Mr. Delaney; and Mrs. Delaney will have more time to prepare lessons.  Also, if Mrs. Delaney will let them, they'll make up the work they didn't do.  The book ends with Kelsey devising a plan to find out what the final punishment would have been (without receiving it, as Russ has threatened if she tries to open it without his knowing).

Where is the line between being your own person and standing up for someone else?  Might there be another way to handle the situation?  Kelsey is trying to gain independence and make her own decisions without what she sees as her strict brother's butting in all the time.  But she makes a decision based on two options without considering the possibility of other options and follows the crowd.  No one tried to approach Mrs. Delaney respectfully between classes and ask why she had changed.  Sometimes, when you get involved in a group effort, it can seem to have a mind of its own.  That's definitely not a good thing in this case, when even the students who want to stop can't--both because of the grades and because of the solidarity. 
Kelsey and the other students make a bad choice--to rebel against a teacher and refuse to do their work.  And there are consequences.  Zeroes on work drop grades severely.  Five students, including Kelsey, are suspended for their involvement after being reported as the "leaders."  Some of the students are grounded or other privileges taken away.  They realize that they have hurt a good teacher. 
The dangers of speeding are addressed when Kelsey is found driving 93 mph on the interstate with a speed limit of 70--she is reminded of them, although she herself is not in an accident.
There are a few instances of profanity.  Kelsey is interrupted before completing two of them ("don't know sh--" (p.2) and  "was sometimes a pain in the --" (p. 53)).  The word "damn" is used approximately three times.  All of these show Kelsey's anger at the situation.  In all but one of those spoken, another person present is upset at the usage. 
Although some objectionable elements are present, I do not believe they are used just for the sake of having them.  Therefore, I still find this book acceptable, although I personally would raise the age somewhat above the publisher's "12 and up."

3 stars--A good meal.

The book is satisfying. Maybe a couple problems with how things are treated, but overall a good book. Be very cautious with readers who accept everything they see in print. I would try another book by this author.

Love in Christ,

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