Cornmaven's Reviews > Paper Covers Rock

Paper Covers Rock by Jenny Hubbard
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Mar 23, 12

bookshelves: high-school
Read in March, 2012

This is an extremely intelligent, literary book following a 1980s teen's experience with a tragic alcohol related death, for which he believes himself to be responsible. He keeps a journal under a pseudonym to try to work this out in his mind. It's an inward journey that is poignant and recognizably one about truth in its many forms.

The teen characters are all very believable. I at first had an issue with the young, female teacher (at an all boys boarding school), until I realized she is just barely out of her teens, so she too is not fully formed and experienced. She believes wholly in the power of literature to explain all, and hasn't yet seen the grey in the pieces she has her classes study, or the greyness of life itself. And Hubbard never reveals why she is there in the first place - a Princeton grad, yet this is the only job she can get? Is it her idealism? Is she as flawed as the boys enrolled in the school?

Hubbard covers quite a lot of issues in this book, weaving each one with the other - character, lying, honor, fear, teen crushes (and how they color everything), responsibility, potential improper student-teacher relationships, tradition, homosexuality, etc. And the beauty is that she leaves them all open to question, open to many different responses. She does not tie them up neatly with a bow. The chapters open with quotes from Moby Dick, probably quite powerful to someone who has read the entire book, but then not very many have done that. Maybe that's one of Hubbard's points - life is like that novel - really hard to understand and get through, and you have to take whatever truths you can manage from it. Or I am overinterpreting. She has Alex write poetry, and a lot of it is not bad, especially the last one. I found myself lingering on the poems trying to figure some of them out, and this is a good thing. And I really liked this food for thought: The word, 'forever' as a "word burdened with both history and future." Really something to chew on.

And I also loved her exposure of Thoreau not really totally roughing it at Walden, which requires us then to read his high minded essays with a new eye.

Lots of good discussion points within this story. It won't be for everyone, but I would recommend it to teen readers who like to think.
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Heather Ponzer I loved the bit about Thoreau!


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