3 out of 4 stars
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The kids in the “Reading Hell” class are an angry lot. And nowhere is this clearly reflected than in the way they think of their teachers. For starters, they think teachers, like all adults, don’t know how to communicate, and won’t keep quiet either, as they hate silence. As a matter of fact, if they can help it, the kids would delay answering their teachers’ questions, just to infuriate them. However, what really irks the kids the most is that, if knowledge is power, then, by virtue of them being in the Reading Hell class, they’re at the bottom of the pecking order.
A Bloody Book by Chris Bowen features a lead character by the name of Maxx. He’s just starting on his teenage years, and a striking feature about him is his aggressive communication style and anger issues, something that is clearly visible on his choice of the book title.
Moreover, I liked the fact that Bowen has broached the theme of brokenness quite well. Indeed, this is the common thread linking all the children in Reading Hell—a term coined by Maxx to describe a class of below average students—together. Unfortunately, the teachers and the school administration, on the other hand, pay no more than a cursory glance at the plight of these children, something that sets them up to a life of providing “slave labor for the kids in other rooms.” Not unless, that is, someone, anyone, in authority is willing to cast off their buttoned-up attitude and come to the aid of these students.
Furthermore, in my reading, I was endeared by the fact that the author was in perception quite well with his matter at hand. He proved that, if anyone was to be in touch with these kids, then, he had to talk like them, act like them, and wear an outfit relatable to them. Apparently, how “stupid” a teacher looked in terms of their dressing, and still appear they cared less about it, scored marks with the students. Additionally, some of the role plays involving, for example, severed fingers and “going back to the scene of crime,” seemed to work up memory and ease off the stand-off between the teacher and the students.
Bowen’s tone is aggressive and angry, like someone who has endured the mistreatment and injustice he talks about. Moreover, he offers plenty of wry humor, occasionally, with his statements, like “I assure you. It will be a bloody book. Scout’s Honor.”
On the contrary, on the other side of the scale, there a lot of issues (captured ten errors) with editing (like the preceding example, where the sentence is fragmented) that need to be addressed. While I won’t penalize for the slang (writing style) phrases, there were instances where it was clear the author intended one word, but he erroneously used another: “why” instead of “way,” or “if” instead of “it.” Additionally, one sentence contained an erroneous capitalized word and two sentences had wrong punctuation marks. Otherwise, I enjoyed reading the book because the themes explored are pertinent in our contemporary society, and the conflict created was resolved amicably. I, therefore, rate the book 3 out of 4 stars.
I recommend the book to high school students, parents, teachers, and school administrators. There is an allusion and acts of violence and drug abuse but not enough to distract sensitive readers. More importantly, though, the lessons learned are worth every effort in looking for and reading the novel.
A Bloody Book
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