Sunday, December 4, 2011

Worst Things I Could Do: Scrawl

Mark Shulman's Scrawl is the second Cybils YA Novel finalist about a boy who hits other people that I read in a row.  Although it shares an explosive protagonist with Split, it feels and reads as a younger, less introspective book.  That's not a criticism; it deals with violence directed outward and hard choices forced by societal pressures, so it makes sense that the main character looks outward more.  Tod, the main character, writes his journal as punishment after been caught breaking into the school, and that's the text we read.  For some reason, the guidance counselor sentenced him to write every afternoon instead of calling in the police.  His co-conspirators are left cleaning up in the yard.  (We do get to hear her explanation at the very end of the book.)

Promising not to lie, he writes about his life and struggles, from managing to keep his pals happy to staying warm without a furnace to somehow getting finagled into making the costumes for a school play.  Although the journaling doesn't really stand up to firm scrutiny, I was completely willing to relax into Tod's voice and watch him almost learn to succeed.  The dynamics of his struggles with the play seem particularly spot on, as did his struggles between pride and self-respect.  I'll hand this over to my seventh grader, who should like it despite the lack of dragons.

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