July 04, 2006

Journalistic Integrity?

Leslie's Journal is a novel which, at first glance, seems to be the story of a teen who is on top of her game. By its cover it is an ALA Quick Pick for Reluctant YA Readers, and the expectation is that this story is going to be straightforward and short, but something appealing. Sadly, this isn't quite the case. The title character is truly aggravating. Though the dialogue is accurate, the premise of the novel - a class assignment where Leslie writes all her troubles in her journal - makes it hard to see that. In the end, this novel is a thinly veiled 'Don't Do Drugs' or 'Tell Somebody' cautionary tale which becomes painful to read. Many times in Leslie's life there is a point at which she could simply make all of the madness stop, by talking to an adult, a security professional (lawyer? policeman? judge? Has she never watched an Afterschool Special?) or ANYONE other than her sweetly milksop best friend, but Leslie is smarter than all the adults that she knows - who are all clueless losers anyway.

See, Leslie's in big trouble. She's giving her mother grief and hating her father, who left them for a new woman. Her best friend's mother thinks she dresses like a call girl and is too coarse and unchristian to be her friend anymore. Onto campus walks a new guy, Jason, and it's obvious from the outset that he's trouble. Trouble becomes increasingly more abusive and dramatic as Leslie's boyfriend. In the end, which moves forward with no surprises, Leslie's journal gets found and read by people who force their help upon her. Without Leslie having to take too much responsibility for getting herself out of the situation she got herself in, bad, mean, stalking Jason is put away, justice is served, and we've all learned something.

But what?

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