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{September 23, 2013}   {Review} Streaks of Blue by Jack Chaucer

18372527From Goodreads: Adam Upton and Thomas “Lee” Harvey are plotting the next big school massacre at their New Hampshire high school. Nicole Janicek, who knew Adam in elementary school, tries to reconnect with the damaged teen at the start of their senior year. But will Nicole’s attempt to befriend the would-be killer disrupt the plot and turn Adam’s life around before the clock strikes 12:14?

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This didactic novel touches on a very sensitive subject, but the message falls a little bit short for me on a personal level. From the character interactions and language that seems forced and unreal, to the attempt of the main character to “save” a young man based on a dream, I had some issues with the text.

Perhaps my biggest issue with this plot line is the fact that most of what the MC does throughout this novel goes against all the mandates and attempts to prevent mass shootings at schools, but it doesn’t stop there. Yes, Nicole has a dream that Adam Upton is going to shoot up her school, and she isn’t sure that she believes it to be true; it’s a dream after all. Trying to get to know him is a plus, and in this aspect, she’s doing the right thing. My issue then rises when she’s sure Adam’s planning the attack. Instead of going to the police (who would take an accusation like this serious, regardless of what the Nicole and her friend Candace think–the police don’t laugh this kind of thing off), she continually tries to make Adam change… but she only has about two weeks to do so. Therefore, it isn’t very likely. To top this, the Nicole tells the guidance counselor enough about what’s happening that the counselor has a very good inkling of the threat. She does nothing. Candace says something to both the guidance counselor and the principal, but neither do anything to question her fears, rather writing it off to fear of the unlikely, even when the evidence and threat is staring them in the face. The main character’s mother knows about the dream, and she knows of the extremely high risk that a shooting may indeed occur after certain events happen, but even she doesn’t do anything or say anything either, even though she, Candace, and the Nicole know that a certain event in the novel was in fact a very real test run. Yet, no one does anything.

Having worked in the educational system for a long time, this is not a factual representation of what would happen in this day and age based on my experiences in the classroom. The fact that no adult steps up with the information they have also paints a sort of picture for those teens reading it that promotes the undertone that adults won’t do the right thing, and therefore, teens should attempt to take on the burden of preventing an atrocity such as a school shooting all on their own. This is not a message they should be taking away from this. The message should be to tell someone, and if that person doesn’t listen, then tell another, and another until something is done. Again, a threat against school children is not taken lightly, and whether or not one has physical evidence won’t stop authorities from doing a probe to assess the potential threat.

Likewise, there is an instance in the novel when fighting seems glorified, and Nicole and her mother thank Candace for standing up for Nicole.  My issue here is that it’s done through fist fighting.  And, while a one day suspension does ensue, there is nothing else that shows readers that physical violence is not the answer.  Instead, Candace is allowed to eat a celebratory dinner at Nicole’s the same day as her suspension, and to be quite honest, a day off of school isn’t really going to teach anyone anything.  But, that’s a whole other can of worms.  Although perhaps unintentional, as a reader of YA fiction, and a teacher of young adults, I’m again afraid of the message potential readers might take away from this novel.

The beginning of the novel was a little jarring for me as I read because of Nicole’s dream, which I wasn’t expecting. I guess I was expecting a more realistic reason behind why Nicole begins to suspect Adam, but regardless, it works to get the point across and puts Nicole on the right path for prevention. Unfortunately, I do believe she goes about it the wrong way. There is no harm in befriending anyone, and the didactic nature of the story concerning friendships and reaching out to everyone, stopping hate and bullying, is a great one; I have no issue there. It is instead what happens once Nicole’s suspicions are confirmed, which happens much sooner than she admits to herself.

Nicole also seems extremely older than she is supposed to be in the novel. At 17, she is overly mature, and while I’ve met many teens that are mature for their age, it’s the way the characters, especially Nicole, talk in the story that made it less than believable. There is a lack of contractions within the dialogue, and regardless of maturity, everyone uses contractions in their speech, so the dialogue itself was a bit jarring on many an occasion.

I read much of this story mentally yelling at the characters as they all seem to make bad decision after bad decision, but regardless, this novel still made me cry throughout much of the ending, so have a box of tissues ready. Even though I don’t agree with many of the character choices and actions in the novel, and many of them are unrealistic, this novel is still powerful. I love the end message about people reaching out and being able to change, but I do think there should be more of a stress on telling others when we suspect others of committing crimes. The last thing I want is a reader walking away from this novel thinking the only way to handle something like this is through attempted friendship and keeping quiet in hopes their new friend might change their mind about murdering a flock of innocent children. Two stars.

2 starsJohn Cullen has been extremely gracious in allowing me to read this novel, via Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.

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I know someone who was one of the first responders at Columbine. The police would absolutely take something seriously, though maybe not a dream. I do not care for books where the lead characters do silly things. To me, we have to keep it a little real. And if the characters do something silly, there has got to be true motivation behind it.



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