cover image The Year They Burned the Books

The Year They Burned the Books

Nancy Garden. Farrar Straus Giroux, $17 (256pp) ISBN 978-0-374-38667-2

Issues, not characters, drive this story, a retread of the themes and setting in Garden's Good Moon Rising. Jamie Crawford, a senior, has achieved her goal of becoming editor-in-chief of her small New England high school's paper. She is also fairly sure she is gay, and when Tessa Gillespie, a new girl from Boston, shows up wearing a red cape and a star-shaped stud in her nose, Jamie starts falling in love. Tessa happens to be straight, but as it turns out, Jamie's unrequited love causes her less anguish than the rise to power of fundamentalist Mrs. Buel. A ""stealth candidate"" during her campaign for a seat on the school committee, Mrs. Buel leads the committee to set aside the new sex education curriculum and stages a book burning on Halloween. The liberal faculty adviser to the school paper is put on leave, and Jamie is forbidden to weigh in on controversial subjects in her editorials. While turning out the rah-rah paper the new faculty adviser insists on, Jamie and her staff eke out the time and energy to publish an underground paper. Another plot line concerns the outing of Jamie's best friend and the swim team star he is attracted to: lockers are defaced, and Jamie and her friends are nearly attacked in the cafeteria. Garden pays less attention to her characters' emotional lives than to their political passions. Unfortunately, if the characters don't seem real, their passions won't ignite readers. Ages 12-up. (Sept.)