24 November 2012

Book (P)Review: Period 8 by Chris Crutcher

Period 8 by Chris Crutcher is a pretty interesting tale of school and suspense and sociopaths.  I only read this book in tiny increments (TMI: I mostly read it in the smallest room in the house), so a few things that came as surprises to me probably wouldn't otherwise have done so had I been reading in larger than 5-page increments.

The tagline on the cover still doesn't make a lot of sense to me, even after finishing the book. "They told him it was safe. They lied."  While I know who "him" is, I have no idea what "it" is supposed to be.  Life? Swimming in cold water? Being a teenager? Falling in love? Talking openly and honestly among your peers because there may be a sociopath among them? All of the above? Dunno. And for that matter, who are "they?" The teachers? The parents? The cops? The mob?

That being said, I enjoyed this book for the various relationships in it, particularly those between Logs and his students.  He's a teacher on the verge of retirement, and he's trying to keep it real with his students every day during Period 8, a time when kids gather 'round and talk about whatever is on their minds, with the assurance that everything that is said during Period 8 stays in Period 8. But not all of his students are who they seem to be...

The dialogue lacks the snappiness of John Green and David Levithan and Sarah Rees Brennan, who write dialogue well, but they've not convinced me yet that there's a teen alive who talks the way their teens talk.  Chris Crutcher's dialogue is very real--these kids are both smart and confident, and they're not completely snark-free, but I feel their conversations could have been lifted wholesale from any prep school in the real world and transplanted into this novel.

It was around the page 230 mark that the book's adrenaline really ratchets up, and I'm SO HAPPY that this book is written in third person instead of 1st.  I think this might be the first YA book out of the last dozen or so that wasn't 1st person, present tense.  What's more, this might actually be a book that is as well suited for male readers as female ones--not a common occurrence in the world of YA.

So if you're interested in realistic teen fiction with relationship drama, the bizarre mood swings of adolescence, betrayals, tough guys, cool teachers, political and/or moral corruption, and parents who are hiding a secret or two of their own, give this one a shot.  No, really--it's good.

NB: This book will release in April 2013 from Green Willow Books, a division of Harper Collins.  I randomly picked up the ARC from our bookstore shelf because I wanted to read a YA that involved neither dystopias nor love triangles and hopefully would appeal to a male readership.  


  1. Omg, your commentary on the tagline made me sputter coffee everywhere!!

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  3. "But not all of his students are who they seem to be..."

    Oh man. I love that kinda crap. It's like Agatha Christie. "ONE OF YOU....is a murderer." *gasps all around*

  4. Hmmm.
    I'm generally a fan of Chris Crutcher, but the premise here has me a tad skeptical. Any teacher running a support group without a license and expecting confidentiality just because he/she says so is either a charlatan-egotist or dangerously naive, IMHO. So I'm wondering if I could stomach this novel at all.
    On the other hand, this summer I read a non-fiction book about sociopaths, and since apparently 1 in 10 people is one, I would think that this subject is an important one for teens to understand and respond to with knowledge and multiple strategies.
    What, besides believable if less-than-snappy dialogue, does Crutcher's latest offer us? Is there substantive content about sociopaths and ways to respond to them here?

  5. ach, Laurie. I've not yet had coffee so with a nod to Buffy, I'm mostly operating under the "fire:bad, tree: pretty" synapses. The class that the teacher, Logs, is monitoring (aside from the classes he actually teaches), is one of the class periods that would otherwise be a studyhall but instead is a place where the kids come and talk about anything they want without pressure or judgment. I recall that it's a public, not a private, school, but most of the kids are overachievers of some form or another. It seems as if Logs was trying to build community and break down cliquish barriers that otherwise exist between the kids outside of Period 8. Beyond that, I'm not sure that I recall enough about the book to answer your question. As for substantive ways to deal with sociopaths, no, not really, because the last quarter of the book is an adrenaline-filled ride with life-threatening situations because the sociopath has hooked up with a corrupt cop and a local mobster. I suspect the book was intended as a quick read more than a social commentary or a how-to.


Please, sir, may I have some more? (Comments, that is!)