cover image Doing Time: Notes from the Undergrad

Doing Time: Notes from the Undergrad

Rob Thomas, Rod Thomas. Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing, $16 (192pp) ISBN 978-0-689-80958-3

Returning to the scene of Slave Day, Robert E. Lee High School, Thomas's collection of thinly connected stories (all of the students are fulfilling their school's community service requirement) barely scrapes the surface of how work affects young people. Thomas relies on hip lingo and details from movies, television and music to carry his narratives forward, which makes his handling of such serious subjects as neglect and abuse within families, racial discrimination, teen pregnancy and poverty seem off-handed. Confronted with people who are economically disadvantaged (""Blue Santa""), bereaved (""Loss of Pet""), badly injured (""Half a Mind"") or just rude and obscene (""Cheatin' Heart""), these teenaged volunteers respond, in most cases, as caring individuals who are just discovering the painful areas of life. While the characters and language ring true, descriptions of, for example, the treatment young women receive at pregnancy counseling centers, offer one-sided perspectives that belie the complicated issues involved. In addition, some explicit language (e.g., ""one of us'll be holdin' a Shania Twain poster one-handed in the little boys' room,"" a DJ says in ""Cheatin' Heart"") may be too strong or incomprehensible for readers in the lower part of the recommended age range. Ages 12-up. (Oct.)