by Susan Vaught
by Bloomsbury USA, September 2011
Del is a good kid who’s been caught in horrible circumstances. At seventeen, he’s trying to put his life together after an incident in his past that made him a social outcast-and a felon. As a result, he can’t get into college; the only job he can find is digging graves; and when he finally meets a girl he might fall in love with, there’s a sea of complications that threatens to bring the world crashing down around him again. But what has Del done? In flashbacks to Del’s fourteenth year, we slowly learn the truth: his girlfriend texted him a revealing photo of herself, a teacher confiscated his phone, and soon the police were involved.
Basing her story on real-life cases of teens in trouble with the law for texting explicit photos, Susan Vaught has created a moving portrait of an immensely likable character caught in a highly controversial legal scenario.
Having read the back of the book blurb and based on the cover, I wasn’t sure how I would like this book. I mean the idea behind it is clearly something young adults should think about and understand the consequences of their actions in the eyes of the current laws, but how would it work as a story plot? Would it come off preachy? Or would it just be a back drop to an otherwise generic young adult novel about two kids in love? Since I hadn’t read Vaught’s work before, I had no idea what to expect.
Vaught provides an excellent novel which balances the life changing consequences with the heartbreaking challenges faced as one boy tries to put his life back together after what is thought to be an innocent act of two freshman in high school. Vaught’s research and knowledge of current laws as well as how they are changing helps to expand a fictional story into a lesson (but not a preachy one) for young adults who do not always understand the consequences of their actions.
As I discussed with the girls of Explore Austin, the actions and things you say now in an ever increasing digital world, can have unknown responses down the road effecting both your personal life and potentially your professional life as well. As the world connects through various digital means, the laws may not always be current with the new situations that arise with these technologies. And as Vaught’s tale of Del clearly shows, what is thought to be a very innocent exchange between two non-sexually active teenagers, results in a young man about to graduate high school who cannot find a college to accept him, and his job prospects are so limited, that he is working in a cemetary.
I wish I had copies of this book to give to my friend who teach the target audience of this book as I know they would not only devour the story, but they might also stop to think before they do something that could result in a similar situation for them. If you have a teen or even a tween, I would suggest you put this book in front of them. It’s well worth a read.
An added bonus, this novel has the rare occurrence of being told from a boy’s point of view; something that you don’t often see in young adult novels and clearly a viewpoint that needs to be heard.
This post is a selection for the Peril the First portion of the 6th annual R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril (R.I.P.) Challenge. To find out more information and/or to sign up to participate, please follow the link. If you are interested in more books or films that are being reviewed as part of this event, please visit the R.I.P. VI Review Site. (This paragraph borrowed from Carl V. host of R.I.P. VI)