Thursday, February 23, 2017

The Most Dangerous Place on Earth by Lindsey Lee Johnson

Where, you ask, is the most dangerous place on earth? The American high school, of course.

This book is considered a novel, but it's almost a series of short stories. Perspective constantly shifts between students, and only a young, new English teacher pops up again and again with an embroiled outsider's perspective on the kids' drama.

The book takes these students from 8th grade through senior year. They study (or not), they party, they get in trouble, and they try to figure out what the world has to offer. We see their actions through the lens of other students (and their teacher), we see their roles in the social caste system, and sometimes we see things from their perspective, too - which often brings new information that alters your reaction to their behavior.

Pretty much they're all self-absorbed shits (they're teenagers - that's the default setting!). But Miss Nicholl isn't too far distanced from her own youth, and her naivety helps illustrate that maturity isn't a threshold you step over, it's more of a series of steps toward an unattainable goal.

The roiling dramas of high school is a near universal touchstone, even if you didn't grow up in this new, technological age, and this is a really, really good book full of complex characters and horrifying, realistic events.

It's being marketed as an adult novel, but it's very much like many of the young adult books being published today (I think the difference is the insertion of an adult rather than an all-teen perspective).

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