Monday, February 4, 2008

The Battle of Jericho by Sharon M. Draper

  • Reading level: Young Adult
  • Mass Market Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Simon Pulse (December 28, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0689842333
  • ISBN-13: 978-0689842337
  • List Price: $6.99
  • I finished this book on Feb. 2
Alright. Draper is a big name in YA lit. She writes urban realistic fiction and has won awards. This book is a Coretta Scott King winner. Here's the thing, I'm sure it's wonderful for a certain group of my students. The ones who like Walter Dean Myers would certainly like this book. And, truthfully, any student who told me they were going to pledge a frat in college would get this book from me. But me, personally? I just wasn't that into it.
First, aesthetically, I hate it. I don't like the cover, what is that? A kid in a Cosby sweater running away? Also: in addition to the Dr. Huxtable sweater, he's wearing a Denim Tuxedo. Ouch. Also: it's in Arial font. Hate! What kind of book is in a sans-serif font? Yuck. Also, on the first page of each chapter the words start over at the left of the page and sort of make a tricky triangle shape down to the normal spot. It's weird. And annoying.
Second: the dialog. Obviously I'm pathetically white and unhip, but these lines seem weak even to me. Examples: "Aw, quit dissin' yourself." and "You just jealous 'cause when the girls try to put their arms around you, they think they're grabbing a skinny old pencil instead!" Ohh, burn. Seriously, uber pwnage. The last person to use old as an adjective like that was Holden Caulfield. Only, you know, he was cool. And there's no swearing. I'm sure Draper did this so that the book was, I dunno, acceptable...but the truth is, kids swear. And something about this trash talk seems unbelievable to me.
Anyway, the story: Jericho and his cousin/best mate Josh and their pal Kofi are recruited to pledge for this cult/club/frat The Warriors of Distinction (which I kept reading as the Warriors of Destruction, which is cooler, and also conjures images of West Side Story-like knife fights. When you're a jet...) So there is hazing. Oh, and there's also a kick ass female, Dana, who tricks them into letting her pledge even though they've never let a girl in before. One of the members is an unstable date-rapist kinda guy who has a thing for her and gives her about ten tons more shit than anyone else. Truly, besides the things that happen to Dana, the pledge stuff is pretty tame (except they are made to steal stuff) until the end, when of course, tragedy ensues.
Here's some of the things that bug me. Dana was a real badass, but I wanted to see a "Suck my dick" G.I. Jane moment, or at least one where the other Warriors made that douche stop picking on her so bad. Also, the girl that Jericho is interested is a weird character with like, no personality, she's very one dimensional. And, Jericho is a trumpet player and misses the chance of his life to pledge and there is little fallout from that. Also: after the tragedy the parents are all offended. Why didn't someone watch them...etc. Um, why didn't you watch them? I hate that the parents expected someone else to be taking care of their kids instead of finding out what was going on. Also: I thought the wrap up was too quick. It was like 275 pages of buildup --> tragedy --> end. Lame. I would have liked the book to explore more what happened after the events on the last night of pledging.
Like I'm saying, this is not a bad book, it's certainly one I think students should read. It has some good characters, and a strong message. I'm just saying I wasn't crazy about it myself. Shrug.

1 comment:

Ms. Yingling said...

I feel sort of the same way about Draper, but her books are never in. There's something about the quasi-ghetto talk that appeals to my African American students struggling to find their own identity. The sequel to this, November Blues, is hugely popular. I didn't mind this one personally. I did like the "this is what happens when you make bad choices" message.