Saturday, November 18, 2006


What Happened to Cass McBride? by Gail Giles
5Q 5P S (language, violence)

"Sticks and stones may break your bones, but words can never hurt you." Bull. You know it and I know it. Words are powerful things. As a character in the book says, "Words are teeth". We all know that sometimes words hurt even more than a physical blow. Most of us have said things about someone and thought they'd never find out. Sometimes we've said whatever it was just to be funny. Sometimes we've said it just to be nasty. Sometimes we know we're being unkind and we don't care. And sometimes we say something thoughtlessly, not really thinking about what we're saying at all. Does it matter what we say, if they're never going to know we said it? But what if they do find out?

When David Kirby asks Cass McBride out on a date, she can't imagine what in the world he was thinking. David is a loser with a capital L. No, David is a LOSER - full caps required. David isn't a wanna-be. He's a never-gonna-be. Why would this total nonentity think he was on her radar, let alone in her dating sphere? Cass is running for Homecoming Queen, so she doesn't give him the withering turndown he deserves. She smiles winningly and tells him that she's kind of tied up right now. But then she sits down at her desk and writes a scathing note about it to her best friend, Emily, who will be sitting in the same desk in the next period. She doesn't realize that David must have been watching her all through class. She doesn't realize he must have seen her write the note and put it under her chair. When she does realize it, it's too late: at the end of class, instead of leaving, David heads for her desk and reads the note before she can stop him.

That night, David takes a rope and hangs himself from a tree in front of his house.

The day after his funeral, when Cass wakes up, she's not in her warm, comfortable bed. She's buried who knows how far underground in a narrow wooden crate with a walkie-talkie strapped to her hand. Kyle Kirby, David's brother, intends to make Cass pay for her thoughtless, nasty words.

If you like reading books that stick a fist in your solar plexus and just keep pushing, if you like books that make you sweat, if you like books that put you in a place you never, ever want to be in -- this is your book. It's harsh. It pulls no punches. You will not like these people. But by the end, you will sympathize with them, at least a little bit.

It's a bit of a trademark with Gail Giles that the endings of her books leave a question in your mind. This one is no exception. I'm looking forward to comparing notes with other readers to see what they think is going on.

This isn't a book for everyone. The situation, the language, the violence all mark it as a book for older readers who like reading dark things. But for those readers, whew! This is another winner. You can read Gail Giles's Brain Droppings and blog or check out more of her books on her official web site.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Agree? Disagree? Something you'd like to say in response? Feedback is welcome! Just keep it on topic, please. And if you found one of my booktalks and used it, I'd love to know how it worked for you.