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Contemporary Realistic Fiction, Lovelace Award Nominee, Middle Grade Readers

BECAUSE OF MR. TERUPT by Rob Buyea…Division I Lovelace Nominee 2013-14

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I have mixed feelings about this book.  It is narrated by 7 different middle school students in new teacher Mr. Terupt’s classroom.  The story is split into two parts, separated by a significant event in the lives of both the teacher and these 7 students.

I LOVED Part I of this story.  It’s difficult for an author to speak convincingly as 7 different characters/narrators.  Mr. Buyea does so in the first half adequately enough so that the degree to which the characters are similar does not detract from their individual stories.  Buyea does a masterful job of intertwining his narrators’ actions to begin creating the unique dynamic that exists in every classroom each school year.

I was pulled deeper and deeper into the story as the multiple storylines began to weave themselves together more tightly and I LOVED all the ways Mr. Terupt dealt with his students–pushing some, comforting others.  He is always respectful of them, while requiring respect of them.  The ways in which he seeks to motivate and guide them toward empowering themselves I found moving and engaging.

The promise of Part I, however, is abandoned in Part II.  Part I has genuine voices; the feelings and actions of the characters come honestly from events and interactions.  The author could have successfully pursued this storyline to an ultimately more satisfying (and authentic) conclusion.  I am disappointed that the author chose the easy route: he manufactured a catastrophic event that threw his characters out of their everyday reality and enabled him to manipulate their feelings and actions in a way he otherwise could not have.

Although, again, not a badly written book–with actually much that is praiseworthy and rich in so many ways in Part I–I think the author ultimately sold both himself and his readers short. For this reason, I probably won’t recommend this book to students who ask me about Lovelace nominees.

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