3 out of 4 stars
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As a teacher, Chris Bowen has more authority than most when it comes to writing through the eyes of a child, which is what he did with A Bloody Book. The novel is Maxx’s chance to complete an assignment given to him in the eighth grade that he never cared to write properly, one that has stuck with him ever since. Readers follow Maxx’s thought process as he writes about scenarios he deems worthy including his home life, school happenings that have worsened his experience, his subsequent time in Reading Hell, and his new teacher Mr. Foxx.
The two characters who are essential to the story are Maxx, who’s the narrator of the story, and Mr. Foxx, the new teacher in Reading Hell that inspires Max to write the assignment in the first place. Maxx has experienced many things a child his age shouldn't have. He lives in an abusive household, the responsibility of taking care of his two-year-old sister rests upon his shoulders, and he's one of many students forced into Reading Hell for their lack of effort in school. Because of these ordeals, Maxx has moments in the novel wherein he has more maturity than most children his age. For example, when a teacher is yelling at him, he remarks "I was thinking that since I couldn’t tell her about the friendship we could’ve had, the least I could do for this poor old lady was let her just dump on me. When I used to have a mom, that’s what I used to let her do to me. She just needed someone to dump on. She just needed someone to scream at that wasn’t going to punch her face in, so that was my job when she used to be around. So while she was screaming, I was thinking, 'There you go Ms. Spencer. That’s right. Just let it all out. It’s okay. I understand.'” (Bowen 13). However, as Maxx is a thirteen-year-old boy, there were moments where his young age shone through. The reason why he couldn’t be friends with Ms. Spencer was, as he put it, “If any of the kids in Reading Hell Class saw me showing Ms. Spencer any kindness, I would’ve been teased about Ms. Spencer being my girlfriend,” (Bowen 12).
I have mixed feelings about Mr. Foxx. On one hand, he encourages his students to reevaluate their attitudes towards school in order to grow up with stable lives. On the other hand, his methods of doing so are unorthodox and highly unprofessional. For example, when he wants to prove a point, he begins listing off of students in Reading Hell that have failing marks in English and Math. In other instances, Mr. Foxx goes slightly mad. As quoted from the novel, “Within seconds, Mr. Foxx pulled out a big butcher knife from his bag and while screaming like a maniac, he sliced it into the top of his desk. The guy did really know how to get our attention.” (Bowen 86).
A Bloody Book touches upon subjects pertinent to our education system today. In one chapter, a teacher singles out a child in her class and makes fun of him because he doesn't know how to spell cat. It reminded me of time in elementary school when my brother didn't know the names of the less than and greater than sign. He recreated the shape with his hands and was ridiculed for it by the math teacher, which prompted other students to join in. Another issue is the fact that children give up on learning. It could be for multiple reasons; maybe they don't care, maybe their home situations interfere with school work, maybe some children aren't as smart as the rest and thus are abandoned by the school system. It happens in high school as well. My friend skipped class for the last few weeks because she thought she was going to fail. If someone believes they can't do something, a teachers job is to help them and encourage them to try until they can.
A Bloody Book was an enlightening read, something that made me ponder the faults in our education system. I rate A Bloody Book 3 out of 4 stars because whilst I did enjoy it, I found that it had a slow beginning, and I need to notch off some points for Mr. Foxxs teaching style. Also, besides two typos that I noticed, there weren't many mistakes in the writing. As the narrator of the novel is someone who finds reading challenging, the grammatical errors only helped to solidify that idea and make the reading experience all the more interesting.
A Bloody Book
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