Sixteen-year-old Alex has just begun his junior year at a boys' boarding school when he fails to save a friend from drowning in a river on campus. Fearing the consequences if they reveal the whole truth about what happened, Alex and his friend Glenn, who also witnessed the accident, decide to lie. Plagued by his guilt, Alex takes refuge in the library, telling his tale in a journal he hides behind a copy of Moby-Dick.
But the boys were not the only ones by the river that day. In the midst of their panic, Miss Dovecott, a young English teacher fresh out of Princeton, happened to arrive.
Over the next few weeks, Miss Dovecott begins to recognize the poetic talent in Alex; she helps him find his voice, and he is thrilled by his teacher's special attention. But when it becomes obvious that Miss Dovecott has noticed glimmers of guilt in Alex's writing, Glenn is convinced that she is out to get them. Now Alex must choose between his friend and his mentor. But every decision has consequences.
This book was surprisingly good. I found it at the public library last week, and although it looked interesting I had mixed feelings about it. I started reading it Sunday, and although I remained skeptical through the first few chapters, by the time I finished it I was pleasantly surprised.
The main character, Alex, was very well-written; though he definitely had faults and I didn't always agree with his thoughts or decisions, he was never unlikeable. He was a very convincing teenage boy, while still being unique enough to be interesting. I could definitely relate to him and feel all his emotions, even the more complicated ones. I liked Glenn's character development throughout the novel, and Alex's reaction to it, and Miss Dovecott was very well-written and lifelike. Even the minor characters, though not always as original, were believable.
For the most part, the writing itself faded into the background, which I think served the book well - it allowed the plot and the emotion to come through very clearly. It also made sense, since the book was supposed to be told through Alex's journal entries - the style definitely fit his character and never slowed down the plot. Then there were moments when the writing was simply outstanding - times when I had to stop and reread something because I liked it so much, or when I would write down a quote I especially loved. I also liked that Alex's poems and essays were included in the book - it definitely helped get a better understanding of his character and the relationship between him and Miss Dovecott - but the way the book was organized was a little confusing at first. I wasn't sure whether I was seeing something that was happening in the present or a flashback, and it was hard to get a sense of the book's timeline and how I was supposed to be interpreting the information. This was the book's main flaw, but once I got past this it was an enjoyable read that I'd definitely recommend taking a look at.