Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Words Are Teeth: What Happened to Cass McBride (booktalk)

What Happened to Cass McBride by Gail Giles
5Q 5P S (But I'm sure junior high school students will read and like it, too.)

"Sticks and stones may break your bones, but words can never hurt you." Well, that’s bull. Words are powerful things. As a character in the book says, "Words are teeth." Sometimes they hurt even more than a physical blow. Most of us have said something unkind 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. 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? And what if we say these things directly to the person, knowing, even hoping, it will hurt them? What happens then?

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 and needs every vote she can get, 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.

(Teens who like Torey Hayden, A Child Called It, Chris Crutcher, Nancy Werlin's Rules of Survival, Elaine Alphin's Counterfeit Son and similar titles will probably like this one. Gail Giles's fans will also want to check out her web site.)

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