Thursday, September 9, 2010

Don't You Dare Read This, Mrs. Dunphrey - Margaret Peterson Haddix

Title: Don't You Dare Read This, Mrs. Dunphrey
Author: Margaret Peterson Haddix
Publisher: Simon Pulse (Simon & Schuster), 2004 (Paperback) (Originally published 1996)
Length: 125 pages
Genre: Young Adult; Realistic Fiction
Started: September 9, 2010
Finished: September 9, 2010

From the author's website:
In the journal she is keeping for English class, 16-year-old Tish chronicles the changes in her life when her abusive father returns home after a two-year absence.

This one is an oldie but a goody....amazing that I call this book old relating to when it was originally published, considering I was in grade 8 at that time...and I just dated myself, but enough of that. A lot of novels use the whole "teachers assign journal writing and the protagonist admits their problems and comes to terms with them and eventually ends up better off for it" kind of plot, but they are always amazing because the epistolary format (journal entries, articles, letters etc.) really gets you into the character's head and males you empathize with them all the more. Tish Bonner is 16 and rough around the edges. She's assigned a journal entry assignment by her English teacher, Mrs. Dunphrey, and the usual rule applies: if the entries are marked "don't read", she swears she won't read them. So Tish uses the journal as a way to vent about her family life, marking each entry with "don't read this, Mrs. Dunphrey." Tish has plenty to vent about: her mother is mentally unbalanced and essentially lives her life as a piece of furniture, her abusive father is now back in the picture after being gone for 2 years, her 8-year-old brother is dependent on her, and the only person that ever cared about them (her grandmother) is dead. Tish doesn't do well in school because she works a part-time job at a burger joint to be able to pay for her own clothes and food. When her dad comes back and her mother becomes even more unstable, eventually abandoning Tish and her little brother, Tish continues to try to keep everything together and all her thoughts go into the journal, until she decides she just can't cope anymore...

Books of this subject matter are always beneficial to read, I think, because they remind us that not everyone is as seemingly "normal" as you think. Everyone has issues and crises of their own that they're dealing with at any given time: the lady walking down the street ahead of you might be going through a messy divorce and custody, the boy sitting behind you in class might be dealing with the death of a parent, and the kid you teach in class might be dealing with abuse in some format. Stories like this teach us to be understanding and forgiving if people don't act they way you want or expect them to, cause perhaps they have a good reason not to. This is especially good for myself as a teacher because half the time the troubled kids do actually have a lot of crap going on that I can't even begin to believe that I understand what they're going through. This story is good for kids, especially kids that don't realize how lucky they are, to read because it makes them realize there are people their own age even worse off than they think they are.

Gritty and based on events that happen more often than we like to admit, read this!

Thoughts on the cover:
Eh, considering the subject matter, there's probably not much that would've been considered cover-worthy material, but it is a great improvement over the original older cover image that's floating around on the internet.

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