Or Not

Publisher
Age Range
12+
ISBN
0738711004
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1 review
Osama O'Sullivan
Overall rating
 
3.0
Plot
 
3.0
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0.0
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0.0
Cassies problems didnt start in eighth grade, but they certainly escalate then. Is it the fact that she believes in evolution when the majority of her classmates doesnt? Is it the fact that she refuses to sing Proud to Be an American during an assembly tribute to September 11? Is it the fact that shes a free thinker with strong opinions on everything from vegetarianism to pollution to war?

Whatever it is, in eighth grade Cassie becomes the butt of many barbs, epithets, and both physical and verbal abuse from her schoolmates. What holds her together is her diary, given to her by her brothers girlfriend, the few friends at school who actually talk to her, her almost boyfriend and visits to her familys cabin in the mountains where she can forget about the rest of the world.

Cassies life is like a typical teens life&ups and downs and ups and downs. The problem is the downs get lower and lower. She has an assignment to write a story&three times. The beginning and ending must be the same but the middle can vary. When her ending involves the suicide of a teenager named Cassie, her teachers and parents get concerned. This ultimately leads to the school getting involved and taking disciplinary action against her tormentors, almost making things worse.

&Or Not is Cassies journal with all her thoughts, emotions, fears and dreams. It highlights several things: the torture that eighth graders can inflict on each other, the fact that teachers and school officials are oblivious to such acts, teachers can inflict pain on students intentionally and unintentionally, and the loneliness that teens can feel.

&Or Not is filled with likeable characters-Cassie and her family and friends. It is also filled with unlikeable characters who you will hate as you encounter them. The diary format is effective as a story telling tool. Cassies liberal bent is understandable based on her parents, who are liberal, educated and opinionated as well. The many references to Lord of the Rings, among other books are fun. The book starts off very strong and stays that way through most of it, however, I was ready for it to end about 50 pages before it did. The problem was I needed to find out how it ends.,.as will you. Id give &.Or Not a try and stick with it.
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Wonderful Debut
Overall rating
 
5.0
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5.0
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Reader reviewed by Jocelyn

&OR NOT? is definitely one of my favorite books read in recent memory. Cassie is such a completely real, entirely interesting, and very unique character! This book is made up of her journals, written in her fresh, original voice. Cassies a fourteen year old girl with opinions and beliefs that make her an outcast at school (ie, she is not a blindly patriotic evangelical Christian). Shes lots of thingsa writer, a vegan, a thinkerbut at school theyd rather just label her a terrorist (as we do in the post-9/11 world) and be done with it. At school, shes harassed and taunted with epithets like American Taliban slut, especially after she refuses to sing Proud To Be An American at school.

In a high school like Cassies fictional one, this book would probably be banned. Or maybe burned.

Cassie is a strong-willed, gutsy, and very likeable protagonist, with a distinct voice, one great character in a whole cast of them. Her story really draws readers in; its quite a lengthy book, but it certainly doesnt drag on. Its also a very relevant story today. Prejudiced people like those Cassie has to deal with are everywhere. I remember once in middle school getting in huge trouble for not saying the pledge of allegiance. I, however, am not as brave as Cassie; Id like to have her courage, but, after that, I stood up and pretended to say it.

Its a thought-provoking, extremely well-written first novel. Brian Mandabachs debut is brilliant, and I am really looking forward to reading whatever this talented author writes next.

Reprinted from http://teenbookreview.wordpress.com
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