Editor’s Choice

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Here readers will find a list of titles that the editor has chosen to highlight. Each month a new title is added to this list
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This Month’s Editor’s Choice

Don't You Dare Read This, Mrs. Dunphrey

Don't You Dare Read This, Mrs. Dunphrey

Margaret Peterson Haddix
Fiction
For ages 12 and up
Simon and Schuster, 2012   ISBN: 978-1442443150

Tish Bonner’s English teacher has asked all her students to keep a journal. If the students want to write down something that is “personal and private” they can mark the entry with “Do not read.” Tish is not sure that she can trust Mrs. Dunphrey, but in her second journal entry she decides to risk it. In her entry for August 20th Tish talks about how much of “a drag” school is. She wouldn’t even bother coming to school except that she likes spending time with her friends. Tish knows that if her teacher reads her entry Tish will end up in “the dropout prevention program so fast my head would spin.” When she isn’t put in the program Tish knows that her teacher really is going to honor the “Don’t read this, Mrs. Dumphrey” agreement.

If Mrs. Dumphrey were to read Tish’s journal entries she would discover pretty quickly that the girl has more than a few problems on her hands at home. Her father abandoned the family some time ago, and her mother is not really coping. At all. In fact, she is coping so badly that Tish has to have a job so that she and her little brother Matt can have clothes, food, and other basic necessities. Tish does not miss her father because he was abusive and quite simply a waste of space, so she is more than a little dismayed when he comes back into town.

Even though he treated her shamefully, Tish’s mother seeks her husband out, and it isn’t long before the man is back in the house. Tish’s little brother Matt is thrilled to have his father back, and he is even more thrilled when his dad gives him lavish presents. Tish does not trust her father, and she wonders where he got the money to buy the gifts that he is handing out.

Tish doesn’t even let her guard down with things go well for a while, and it turns out that she was right not to do so. Soon enough the fights between the adults start up again, and Tish and Matt take refuge in one of the bedrooms, trying desperately to find ways to ignore what is going on downstairs.

Though she is loath to admit it, Tish is grateful that she has her journal. Writing down her problems and her worries seems to help in some strange way. As the situation at home gets worse and worse, her entries get darker and darker and more and more desperate; and yet on the surface Tish is the same and no one knows what she is going through.

This powerful novel shows to great effect how the life of a teenager, who should have a safe and secure home, is brought to the brink when her parents neglect their parental duties in a most egregious way. Tish’s struggles are sometimes painful to read about, but it is important that we know what life is like for many young people. Perhaps if we become more aware, we can be more understanding; and perhaps we can even offer our help.

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