Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Riveting Reads: Shattering Glass


In the spring of 2008, I took a Reading Endorsement class on adolescent literature. While in this class, a fellow student introduced me to an author that she swore I would love. That author’s name was Gail Giles. Apologetically, I didn’t get around to reading anything by Giles until this last Christmas break. It was then that I picked up a copy of Giles’ Shattering Glass (Simon Pulse, 2002) from a library. Granted it isn’t as current I would have liked, but still worth the title of Riveting Read.


The cover of Shattering Glass sold me. There’s this haunting close up picture of a boy’s pale and corpse-like face behind glass. At the center of one eye is a small hole (perhaps, from a bullet). Branching from the hole, the glass cracks in a spider web, and all the while the boy stares back with an expression that can only be described as a sad regret. Tucked under the title, the selling quote by Publishers Weekly endorses the book with this description: “Suspenseful, disturbing…” And this is an understatement.


The first lines of Shattering Glass are thick with mysterious intensity. “Simon Glass was easy to hate. I never knew exactly why, there was too much to pick from. I guess, really, we each hated him for a different reason, but we didn’t realize it until the day we killed him.” Told in the perspective of B’Vale High School student Young Steward, the novel begins with the arrival of a dark and intriguing new student named Rob Haynes. He quickly gains the respect and esteem of the popular crowd, and begins a project that will change B’Vale High forever. Rob’s plan: to remake a nerd—Simon Glass—into a cool kid. It’s an old plot—you may have seen it in Grease, Mean Girls, Can’t Buy Me Love, She’s All That, Clueless, etc.—but this rendition is laced with secrets, unexpected danger, and murder. Secrets fill each character like the jelly in a doughnut, only there’s nothing sweet about the events as they are revealed.


Stylistically, I love how each chapter begins with a witness or character statement made from various students and parents surrounding Simon Glass. One student, Caroline Davids, says this about Rob’s popularity project, “It’s like Rob went to the pound and picked out the ugliest dog there. Because nobody else was going to. After a while, the dog kind of grows on you and you actually think it’s sort of cute. You get that, right?” Each of these interviews gives a little glimpse of the events that shattered Simon Glass. A few allude to the imprisonment of the viewpoint character, Young, and makes the reader wonder about his involvement. He is the character we’re supposed to root for, right? Yet, how did he end up destroying another human being. Every word will fuel you to keep reading. Every secret will make you crave resolution. And of the ending, I’ll say this: it was satisfying. (Trust me. There’s irony in my word choice, but you won’t catch it until you read the book.) Happy reading.


(as published in The Foothill Breeze Jan. 2010)

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