Much like Jen Bryant’s  Ringside 1925: Views From The Scopes Trial, this book tells the same story from the viewpoint of eight narrators that each have a distinctive voice.

The setting is a middle-school classroom where three bullies are put on trial for picking on Ivy, calling her Poison Ivy. The government teacher decides that having a mock trial will be a good learning experience, so she assigns a prosecutor, a defense attorney, a judge, a court reporter, a process server and jurors.

Marcus, who was hoping to have a major role in the trial, has to settle for being an alternate juror, and he seems to be the only one, besides the teacher, who really cares that the trial proceeds as it should. Ivy doesn’t seem to care, sitting at her desk and idly plucking at the fuzzballs on her sweater. The defense attorney, Daria, is terrified of the whole process. She is disappointed that the teacher did not excuse her based on her extreme shyness. “Other handicaps are treated with consideration and respect.”

On some levels Daria is the typical “timid mouse” character, but some descriptions make a real emotional connection to a reader who may have been a bit timid in school. When contemplating her opening statement, Daria thinks, “I’d feel ridiculous standing up there, trying to talk phony legal-speak in front of everyone. The thought sucked the breath right out of my body.”

Of the three bullies, Ann is the leader and she comes across in the book as the typical boss of the clique, alternating between using her beauty and popularity to influence the proceedings. The reluctance of many of the students to testify against her illustrates her power, as well as the fact that many teens are indifferent to the bullying of others and just happy that someone else is getting bullied.

Amy Goldman Koss is the author of a number of books for young readers including, Side Effects, The Cheat, The Girls, and many more. She has a keen sense of humor and an ability to clearly define teenage characters that young readers can identify with. Adults can identify as well, since we never forget the experiences of high school that helped shape the person we became as we grew up.

While this book does not have the depth of Ringside when it comes to addressing the social issues, it is an entertaining and often humorous look at a slice of teenage living that unfortunately hasn’t changed in centuries.

Poison Ivy
Paperback: 192 pages
Publisher: Square Fish; Reprint edition (October 28, 2008)
ISBN-10: 031238453X
ISBN-13: 978-0312384531

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  Amy’s Web site
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Maryann Miller —- Maryann’s Web site

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