Paper Covers Rock - by Jenny Hubbard
"nice change from girl drama, vampires, and heartthrobs"
When someone mentions keeping a diary or a journal, most people automatically assume that whoever is keeping it is a girl. Well, in the young adult novel by Jenny Hubbard called Paper Covers Rock, the opposite happens. This novel is a teenage boy, Alex, at a remote all-boys boarding school who, ironically, keeps a journal of his experience with the death of a good friend of his. He feels significantly responsible for this, and he conceals a secret about that night by writing it in a journal. Now, this sounds a little far-fetched, but this novel truly grasps the minds of readers.
When I hear the term "young adult novel," I think about how I'm not interested in the vampire love stories and supernatural nonsense that seems to envelop the world of teenage novels. But Paper Covers Rock is very real. The style of the book was hard to follow in the beginning because it is Alex's journal, and the book starts out in medias res. As the story continued, however, it was much easier to read and made it far more intriguing than going chapter by chapter.
Alex is a poetic and artistic boy. In his diary, he writes his deep thoughts and poetry, which is an aspect of the book I absolutely adored. Not only did they provide a break from the story line, but the poems were very well done, enjoyable, and mimicked those of a teenager very well. They kept me interested and played a significant part in understanding Alex. Also, I want to applaud the author for her ability to write both poems and a novel. To write a novel along with close to seven to ten different poems most likely took a very long time, patience, and creativity that honestly blew my mind. Speaking of creativity, I always find it a great accomplishment for a writer to present the dialogue between younger characters correctly. In this novel, Hubbard does a fantastic job. The sexual innuendo and jokes, crude language, high spirits, and gossip were all portrayed in the thoughts of Alex and in the dialogue between characters. With my experience with high school boys, this seems to fit their attitudes and actions. Because of this, I think a lot of teenage boys would be able to relate to this book and find it entertaining.
A negative on this, though, would be the sex in this book. The crush Alex has on his English teacher seemed a bit too inappropriate and took away some of the innocence his character portrayed, but I understand how it contributed to portraying these boys correctly. The abuse of alcohol and breaking the rules was a great addition to the plot because a good majority of teenagers can relate to being pressured to drink or do irrational dares. It was a mind and heart grasping subject.
Most people don't see the sensitive side of guys, so even though this made it a bit hard to relate to the characters on an emotional level, it showed the more vulnerable side of boys. I enjoyed seeing this side of teenage boys from a different perspective because it made them seem more human; more real emotionally. It's not every day that you see a teenage boy so interested in poetry, and I think the author did a fantastic job on portraying that character.
One very positive note about Paper Covers Rock is that the imagery and metaphors in both the poems and the journal lit up in front of my eyes. Not only was it hard to put down because of the lack of chapters, but no matter where you were in the novel, you just couldn't find a stopping point. The imagery and figurative language used - metaphors, simile's, allusions, and references to things us teenagers would be able to relate to - made for an irresistible experience while reading.
When I first began the book, the confusion I had and the lack of interest made me think I would be writing a very negative book review. But, as soon as the plot turned, I was drawn in and anchored for the three hours I was glued to its pages from cover to cover. There are negative aspects of this novel, but overall, it was a nice change from the traditional style and theme of modern young adult novels. If you are not so interested in teenage girl drama, vampires, and summer heart throbs, this book is a must read for both girls and guys.