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Paper Covers Rock by Jenny Hubbard

Paper Covers Rock

by Jenny Hubbard

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Sensitive portrayal of a boy coping with the accidental death of his best friend. Terrific writing and the glorification of literature/writing/books is an added bonus.

Alex's best friend has died as a result of a diving accident at the local swimming hole. The boys had been drinking. Alex's role in the death is further complicated by doubts about the resuscitation and rescue efforts. In sum: Alex is carrying a load of guilt. He writes in a secret journal and his words help him cope but can only carry him so far. He can't talk to anyone for fear of being outed for the drinking (and expelled). In fact, he and his surviving friends conspire to cover-up and set up several fall guys for the incident ("The Plan"). Added to the mix is the fact that his English teacher (a mad crush) has witnessed part of the accident. How much does she know? How can they silence her?

In addition to the fine writing, "The Plan" as it unfolds creates a nice thread of suspense. The book is also a true-to-life look at a boy's first love (again, on his English teacher) the loss of innocence / coming of age. The author captures beautifully the climate of a boys boarding school (i.e., the male culture)

Alex's crush is sensitively handled but obviously carries a sexual component (he has erections; dreams of seducing her, etc.) Further, there is some hints of homosexual experimentation and name-calling (see "male culture" above!) All of this might rattle a few cages but, in this reader's estimation, is essential to the believability of the story.

Highly recommended. ( )
  mjspear | Apr 18, 2016 |
Set in a boarding school in 1982, Hubbard tackles young, male boarding school beliefs, and honor codes. Thomas drowns shortly after his 17th birthday, with the only witnesses being his friends Clay, Alex and Glenn. While trying to cover up their involvement, the boys learn that their favorite English teacher was also there. Alex wants to tell the truth, as he's in love with her, but can't bring himself to go against Glen and his plan. Under Glenn's tutelage, The Plan to get rid of the evidence, even if it means getting rid of their souls in the process, begins to fall into place. Hubbard's writing is disjointed at times, jumping from past to present, full of literary characters and references which all combine to keep the reader off-balanced proving good doesn't always win over bad. ( )
  ShouldIReadIt | Sep 26, 2014 |
I bought this book a while back and finally got time to read it. It began a little slow but once I got more to the meat of the story it grew on me.

Plot: This is about a boy, who is in a private all boys school, and a tragic incident has happen. Alex feels let down that he was not on time to save his friend. This plot did move slow in the beginning due to the author giving the reader lots of background information. Once you get more to the middle and more lies and truths began to come out, the story begins to paint a bigger picture of what actually happened.

Web Of lies: I didn’t think that guys can lie as well as girls. These guys made lies on top or more lies, they fought and brought other down faster than a quarterback on a Friday night. I mean, really these guys could give mean girls a run for their money. We all knows that lies can only cover for so long and then before you know it, the truth comes out.

Ending: I really liked how in the end, all is revealed. The author did a great job leading the reader piece by piece till the very end.

This is great book. Not only is it small but it really packs a punch. It’s one of those stories that sticks with the reader even after its finished. I thought about it for days. About the lies and about the truth. Paper Covers Rock is a great read. ( )
  Bookswithbite | Apr 22, 2014 |
The book opens with the narrator explaining why, after two years of letting the journal his father gave him when he went away to boarding school lay fallow on his shelf, he is now writing in his journal. The narrator, Alex Stromm, is writing the journal for himself spurred to do so by the death of his friend and classmate, Thomas Broughton, from drowning. Alex's thoughts, feelings, and overall reaction to this event comprise the rest of the novel. The story he tells involves another friend, Glenn, and a special teacher, Miss Dovecott, who is just a few years older than Alex, the junior student, and who encourages his writing especially his budding efforts at poetry. As he records his thoughts in the journal his relationships, both school and family, become clearer. There are a few touching moments such as Alex's letter of condolence to Thomas' parents that opens, "I have been wanting to write for a couple of weeks now, but I did not know exactly what to say or how to say it, so I have put it off. Now I realize that I will never know exactly what to say or how to say it. . . " (pp 64-65) Both the poetry and the prose in the book limn a young student of above-average ability. The writing ability helps Alex express his feelings about both love and death as he tries to move forward in his school life. Near the end of the book he writes, "...and he'll leave it as others have left it, as others will leave it, boys stepping into who they are without ever having known who they were." (p 163) , suggesting he still has work to do, and he is developing the maturity to do so.

The book is laced with literary references, primarily to Moby-Dick which inspired Alex's literary nom de plume of "Is Male". This is both a literary reference and a symbol of his young male hormones that are as much a reason as any for his crush on Miss Dovecott. The tone throughout is one of mystery and melancholy; mystery as to the nature of Alex's involvement with the death of his friend Thomas and melancholy as his feelings are poured out over the pages of his journal. The result is a subtle portrayal of how one teenager matures through dealing with loyalty, honor, and love in a boarding school environment. While the novel is reminiscent of John Knowles' A Separate Peace, it does not quite match that novel's literary heft. However, I was impressed with the author's lucid prose and moved by the slight story. I appreciated young Alex's appreciation of reading in the opening pages when he wrote in his journal, "Read to your heart's content. Though if you are a reader, the heart is never content." (p 2) ( )
  jwhenderson | Feb 27, 2014 |
I have to give at least four stars for Hubbard's poetic, literary writing and complex narrative structure (it's more of a set of connected vignettes that move back and forth in time than a straight forward-momentum shot). I also have to give at least four stars to the actual poems in the novel, written by Alex, the narrator, a couple of which gave me the shivers.

As for my overall enjoyment and emotional investment, though, I can't give this more than 2 stars. I'll try to get more into why this didn't work for me as a story later (rather than a collection of short, beautifully written pieces), but mostly, I think it is because I found the whole "young writer writing about himself while being self-aware of how his writing informs his life" tiresome after a while. I have a pretty high tolerance for self-reflexive narratives, but there needs to be something other to offset the intense navel-gazing. I got tired of all the Moby Dick references, the Hemingway references, and the Simon & Garfunkel references. I got tired of all the direct addresses to the reader, and all the times Alex says something like "if this were a novel, and I was a character, I would . . . . " I got tired of the author (Hubbard, I mean, but also Alex, insomuch as he is the 'author' of this story) dancing around whatever dark secrets they all have (their "darkest selves"), which are slowly revealed but then end up under-explored emotionally. This story doesn't build to a climax, or a moment of truth, or a big reveal, but sort of stutters along a baseline, never straying too far.

None of this is necessarily bad. I certainly wouldn't fault anyone for loving this book. It might even come down to mood. It's a subdued, contemplative novel that never stops being melancholy, not even for a second, and later on, I might be in the mood to sit quietly and revel in the language and think deep thoughts. But then I might just choose to read A Separate Peace again, instead.

Also, the boy on the cover is brooding so hard he is going to pop a vein!

( )
  Crowinator | Sep 23, 2013 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0385740557, Hardcover)

"In the tradition of John Knowles's A Separate Peace."--Publisher Weekly, Starred
"One of the best young adult books I've read in years."--Pat Conroy
William C. Morris Debut Award Finalist

At the beginning of his junior year at a boys' boarding school, 16-year-old Alex is devastated when he fails to save a drowning friend. When questioned, Alex and his friend Glenn, who was also at the river, begin weaving their web of lies. Plagued by guilt, Alex takes refuge in the library, telling his tale in a journal he hides behind Moby-Dick. Caught in the web with Alex and Glenn is their English teacher, Miss Dovecott, fresh out of Princeton, who suspects there's more to what happened at the river when she perceives guilt in Alex's writing for class. She also sees poetic talent in Alex, which she encourages. As Alex responds to her attention, he discovers his true voice, one that goes against the boarding school bravado that Glenn embraces. When Glenn becomes convinced that Miss Dovecott is out to get them, Alex must choose between them.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:21:18 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

In 1982 Buncombe County, North Carolina, sixteen-year-old Alex Stromm writes of the aftermath of the accidental drowning of a friend, as his English teacher reaches out to him while he and a fellow boarding school student try to cover things up.

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