My rating: 4 of 5 stars
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Polarity Weeks longs for the mundane life of a normal teenager; however, fate has handed her quite a different circumstance. Her mother suffers from Borderline Personality Disorder, and this in and of itself has created a life destined for chaos causing constant upheaval to Polarity's existence. Add to this the usual struggles (#firstworldproblems) of a technology driven teenage world, and the recipe for disaster writes itself.
Unbeknownst to Polarity, a nude photo of her relishing a smile and a wave has surfaced on the Internet. In true poor classroom management fashion, this picture defecates its destruction all over Polarity's already complicated life amidst her 6th period class while the teacher has stepped out of the room. Arvey, another misfit among them, alerts Polarity to the caption on the screen boasted about by the school's most annoying and tedious bully. Not only is Polarity unaware of the photo's existence, she swears she never posed for such a travesty...it's simply not in her nature. She wouldn't do this. To make matters worse, the one boy in school that she longs to notice her, Ethan, might see this and for Polarity, that is nail in the coffin.
Of course, almost no one believes her denial pleas that she never posed for such a close-up. Not her teachers, her administration, the child protective services, the police, but much to her abatement, Ethan does. In an attempt to salvage the reputation of Polarity, Ethan "mans-up" and she in turn, saves him, too. It's through this mutual desire to save one another that Polarity learns that under the surface, they all long for a mundane life, as no one has been dealt a perfect plan.
Brenda Vicars has created a true-to-form high school scenario complete with cliques, bullying, cyber-bullying, and racial tension. Each element of the writing develops the struggles of an average high school in America. The downfall of the American teenager and the dangers of the Internet "wall of safety" are deftly displayed as cunning and duplicitous in the hands of those bent on revenge. What I liked most about this story was the unsuspecting culprit and casualty relationship.
Vicars's strength in writing was her willingness to allow the character of Polarity to fall again and again while she attempted to figure out the solution to her problem; an amateur sleuth in search of the truth. So many teen stories develop clichés of salvation, but Vicars let her readers suffer with Polarity – this gives the novel depth and strength. It’s not just another teen book of survival, it’s a book of triumph in the face of survival – those are two different ideas.
As a high school teacher myself, I appreciated the extended metaphor Vicars weaved about crossing boundary lines in a healthy way. Her juxtaposition of racial tension embedded the intricate lacework of silk-screen technology created a thread of astriction throughout the entire work. It allowed an onlooker to understand the true nature of bullying and how the Internet plays such a huge role in this for teens today.
I look forward to more work from the talented author!
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Except from Chapter one:
Except from Chapter one:
I was the last student in the freshman class to know. Well, almost the last—Ethan found out from me.
It all came out during sixth period, when the teacher left the classroom unsupervised. Danny, the big bad guy of Star Ninth Grade Center, leaned back in his chair and scratched his belly. “Yuck! Hill’s got dog breath—ruff, ruff!—today.”
Kids snickered, and immature silliness broke out all over the room. The computer lab desks were arranged in a big square, with everyone facing inward, and so even while studying my screen, I couldn’t help witnessing some of the nonsense.
Across the room, Danny stood and stretched with a loud-groaning yawn. “Damn, Coach ran our butts hard this morning.” He leaned forward and rubbed his hands on the front of his thighs.
Cynthia, the super-crimped blonde sitting next to him, pulled makeup out of her purse.
“You know, you’re just the water boy.” She added another coat of mascara to her already loaded lashes.
Danny’s grin drooped. His skin, usually the same straw color as his short spiky hair, gained a pink glow. “I’m in the relays. I’m running every day.”
Drawing on fluorescent blue eyeliner, Cynthia crooned, “Ooooo, relays. Yippee.”
“Yeah, Cyn, come watch me this afternoon. We can have a little sin after practice. Heh, heh, heh.” He checked around the room, as if to see who got his joke.
I slumped lower to use my computer screen as a barrier. In the chair next to me, Ethan, the one black guy in the class, remained totally focused on his research. Not only did he act older than the other boys, but he looked older—more muscular and taller than my dad’s six-foot-two. Ethan’s strong jaw, straight nose, and deep, dark eyes conveyed an air of confidence.
I envied him because he automatically fit into a group—small in this school, but still a group. The group of black students. It was my fourth week at Star, and since there were only two weeks left until summer break, I had settled into the role of trailer-park outcast. I didn’t see the point in trying to schmooze into a clique. I figured Mom would want to move again before school started, anyway.
Danny sat down, but unfortunately, his voice boomed over the drone of the rest of the class. “Hey, Aiden, Sean—did you hear that Hill has dog breath today? Ruff, ruff!”
Coincidentally, I had just Googled “how to tell if you have bad breath.” I hated never knowing for sure whether I had it. I surfed for some way to give Mr. Hill a hint, so maybe he could find a remedy. I hoped before I reached the making-out phase of my life, someone would invent a bad breath detector, so I could know how my own breath smelled.
Arvey, one of the few girls in the school who seemed as unpopular as I was, tapped my shoulder. My breath thoughts halted. With her trademark glum expression, she angled her head toward Danny, where every other student except Ethan had clustered. They were whispering about something on Danny’s screen.
This school district had pathetic filters compared to Houston and all the other schools I had attended—students could cruise any site they wanted. I figured whatever he pulled up kicked because even the good students crowded around his computer with their mouths dropped open. I glanced at Ethan, who was still absorbed in his work. No way would I get up and go over to the other side. Like Ethan, I didn’t care to hang with Danny’s group.
Arvey stood next to me with a small, thin-lipped smile, as if waiting for my reaction. She lived in a trailer near mine. Hers, a big rusting, double-wide, seemed to be falling apart, and so many children and visitors drifted in and out all the time, I couldn’t tell who actually lived there.
“What is it?” I asked her.
She tilted her head downward so that her curtain of long dark hair covered her eyes. She shrugged and started walking toward Danny. She usually didn’t hang with a clique, but whatever Danny displayed clearly grabbed her interest because she drifted right back to the enthralled crowd.
In spite of my effort to keep my eyes on my halitosis article, Cynthia’s gasp caught my attention. She smirked at me while coating on a layer of hot pink gloss. “Ooooo.” She smacked her lips. “Hardcore.”
I figured Cynthia targeted me with her grooming display because my super-diligent, opinionated parents didn’t allow me to wear makeup.
A girl standing behind Danny gaped over his shoulder. “I can’t believe it.”
Though everyone’s eyes were drawn to Danny’s screen, they kept sneaking peeks toward the side of the room where Ethan and I sat. Ethan, with his strong, detached demeanor, scanned his article and jotted notes.
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