CHEATING LESSONS

Nan Willard Cappo, Author
Nan Willard Cappo, Author . S&S/Atheneum $16 (240p) ISBN 978-0-689-84378-5
Reviewed on: 01/07/2002
Release date: 02/01/2002
Mass Market Paperbound - 262 pages - 978-0-689-86018-8
Hardcover - 296 pages - 978-0-7862-5325-8
Paperback - 240 pages - 978-1-4424-3078-5
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This belabored first novel centers on Bernadette, star of Wickham High's debate team. She is also the top scorer on the written test that qualifies Wickham to compete in the prestigious Classics Bowl against archrival Pinehurst, a snooty private school. But Bernadette becomes suspicious—she and her peers, she realizes, simply didn't know the answers to enough of the questions to score as high as they allegedly did on the test. Could Mr. Malory, the beguilingly handsome English teacher on whom she has an enormous crush, have altered the students' responses? In a facile plot twist, Bernadette gains access to Mr. Malory's apartment without his knowledge, snoops around and deduces that Mr. Malory is courting one of the Classics Bowl judges in order to learn the competition questions ahead of time. Resembling the recent movie Cheaters (about high-schooler haves and have-nots facing off in a quiz bowl), the premise has potential. Bernadette grapples with an intriguing moral quandary and ponders such options as exposing their teacher's dishonesty or throwing the contest. Yet the often brittle, self-conscious writing and snide protagonist sink the story. Ages 12-up. (Feb.)

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