Wednesday, March 8, 2017

The Most Dangerous Place on Earth by Lindsey Lee Johnson - Book Review

Before reading this book, I'm not sure I had ever really thought of middle school and high school as a dangerous place. I mean outside of a few extreme examples, going to school is rarely life or death. In " The Most Dangerous Place on Earth" the author, Lindsey Lee Johnson, shows just how those years can be dangerous, and why...

The Most Dangerous Place on Earth
by Lindsey Lee Johnson
The wealthy enclaves north of San Francisco are not the paradise they appear to be, and nobody knows this better than the students of a local high school. Despite being raised with all the opportunities money can buy, these vulnerable kids are navigating a treacherous adolescence in which every action, every rumor, every feeling, is potentially postable, shareable, viral.
Lindsey Lee Johnson’s kaleidoscopic narrative exposes at every turn the real human beings beneath the high school stereotypes. Abigail Cress is ticking off the boxes toward the Ivy League when she makes the first impulsive decision of her life: entering into an inappropriate relationship with a teacher. Dave Chu, who knows himself at heart to be a typical B student, takes desperate measures to live up to his parents’ crushing expectations. Emma Fleed, a gifted dancer, balances rigorous rehearsals with wild weekends. Damon Flintov returns from a stint at rehab looking to prove that he’s not an irredeemable screwup. And Calista Broderick, once part of the popular crowd, chooses, for reasons of her own, to become a hippie outcast.
Into this complicated web, an idealistic young English teacher arrives from a poorer, scruffier part of California. Molly Nicoll strives to connect with her students—without understanding the middle school tragedy that played out online and has continued to reverberate in different ways for all of them.
Written with the rare talent capable of turning teenage drama into urgent, adult fiction, The Most Dangerous Place on Earth makes vivid a modern adolescence lived in the gleam of the virtual, but rich with sorrow, passion, and humanity.

So many things felt authentic and true...

There were many times during " The Most Dangerous Place on Earth" where the author, Lindsey lee Johnson, said something through a character that just rang very true to me about high school, bullying, and growing up. One of my favorite moments in this book, was when a character described bullying as a finger trap.
"You stuck your fingers in the ends of the tube, and the more you moved, tried to jerk free, the more tightly the tube closed around you."
I mean, wow. I don't need too many moments like that in a book to absolutely love the book, because moments like the one above are also one of the primary reasons I enjoy reading as much as I do! I can read ninety nine books and be disappointed, as long as the hundredth has a moment like that one above. Reading gives me the opportunity to imagine and voice things that feel too difficult or complex otherwise. So you finish a book, and you take that image with you, and then the next time you are experiencing something that seems impossible to communicate, you remember - you remember a line, or a scene, or a whole book even, and it helps.

Thanking God that Facebook wasn't around...

I went to high school in a some what simpler time. Cellphones were just becoming popular, text messaging was popular but not widely available. The closest technological advance to Facebook that my classmates and I shared was AOL Instant Messaging. These messages could be manipulated and corrupted a thousand different ways. Entire conversations, one might've considered private could be copied, pasted, or printed for the world to see. I consider myself incredibly lucky to not have been the subject of very much bullying during high school, and I am forever thankful that Facebook and Instagram and more weren't available in the early 2000s. The type of attacks possible through these mediums, or just the constant rejection of "zero likes" is more than I can imagine coping with as an adolescent.

Parenting skills level 10

The parents in this book were overwhelmingly bad. As a parent myself, I feel like this book was a good reminder of the power parents have in teaching their children the impact they have on others. One moment in particular stuck out to me - one of the students commits suicide after being bullied, and Damon, one of the bullies, was "punished" by being kept home from school for a week. The character remarks, "That was how he knew. That nothing could touch him. And if nothing could touch him, then nothing he did mattered." What an important lesson to fail to communicate - what you say and do matters. And how much does that explain why Damon felt like it didn't matter what he said to another student or how he made them feel. Wow, again from this book.

Things I Struggled With

Lindsey Lee Johnson is an excellent writer, so when the narrative of "The Most Dangerous Place on Earth" slipped into the voice of a seventeen year old boy or girl, perhaps a little too authentically, I really missed her voice. There were also a couple of storylines that felt a little implausible or overly simplified. In part, I think that's because there were so many different dangerous elements of high school life explored, it was difficult to explore all of them to a depth that would've felt right.

Overall, I really enjoyed " The Most Dangerous Place on Earth" and I am absolutely psyched to read Lindsey Lee Johnson's future books. Have you read this book? Let me know what you thought of it in the comments below. Thinking about reading this book? Click here to find a copy at your local library or click below to view the book on Amazon.

Many thanks to Random House for allowing me to read this book prior to publication. As a "girl about library", where books are always free, you can be sure that all opinions expressed are my own. Happy reading!


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