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Sunday, August 7, 2011

Paper Covers Rock, written by Jenny Hubbard. Delacorte, Random House. 2011. $18.99 ages 14 and up

"Reading, she tells me, is what she does best. She loves it because it uses the whole of her, the right and the left, the hemispheres of reason and imagination. She discovered as a child that a closed book is a darkness anyone can enter, not a scary darkness like a basement or a storm, but a comforting one that wrapped her up neatly inside a world she could control."

When Thomas dies in a river near their boarding school, Alex is one of boys present. The four of them - Thomas, Glenn, Clay and Alex - have been drinking and that inebriation results in a dare to jump from the high rock at the edge of the woods into the river below.

The guilt that Alex feels is palpable, but he gets caught up in a cover-up so as not to be expelled from Birch School, with its code of honor and extremely high expectations for all of its students to represent it to the best of their ability. That would not include drinking, or jumping from a rock that has been out of bounds because of safety issues.

Thomas' death has Glenn, the school's top student, letting Clay take the fall for the liquor and keep Alex and Glenn away from any suspicion that they were involved. Clay is expelled, and now the remaining boys must deal with the situation in their own way. It turns out that one of their teachers was nearby when the accident happened; no one is certain about what she saw.

Glenn decides they must follow a plan to discredit her in the event that she has more to tell than what she originally stated. Miss Dovecott is their English teacher. Alex deals with his guilt through his writing, in a personal journal that no one else sees. Through his assigned writing he wants to impress his teacher. He is obsessed with her and is encouraged by her praise for his thoughtful assignments She presses him to keep writing; perhaps to find the solace needed to assuage the guilt he is feeling about his friend's death.

Glenn feels that Alex should use the influence he has with her because of his writing to find out what she has not disclosed about the night of the drowning. Alex is hesitant, not wanting to push too hard in case she becomes suspicious. Glenn begins making accusations that could lead to her dismissal and finally, pushes Alex into a situation that ends with her resignation. Before her departure, she leaves Alex with a question. Did Glenn have a motive to silence Thomas?

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