Book Review: The Most Dangerous Place on Earth

Honestly, when I first read the title of this book, I did not immediately think of high school. Now that I think about it, I wonder why I didn’t, because, God knows, I couldn’t wait to get out of high school. It nearly made me want to kill myself and I can only thank my lucky stars that social media wasn’t a thing then, because if it were, I probably wouldn’t be here today.

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What the book did remind me of once I’d read it is Thirteen Reasons Why, the book by Jay Asher (now a series on Netflix), minus the tapes. What would have happened if Hannah hadn’t left any tapes? Because in reality, in most cases, there are no tapes or explanations. What happens then?

The Most Dangerous Place on EarthΒ by Lindsey Lee Johnson is one version of an answer. The book begins in the eighth grade with the events leading up to a student’s tragic suicide. The book then jumps to the first day of the 11th grade, with this tragedy a distant memory, albeit with long shadows. There are barely any direct references to how this event has affected the lives of the characters involved, but look between the lines and the traces reveal themselves.

Needless to say, the book deals with the issues relevant to high-school students today –bullying/cyberbullying, helicopter parents, suicide, sexual abuse by an adult, ineffectual teachers who try to “befriend” the students etc. Therefore, trigger warnings here for suicide, bullying, cyberbullying, sexual abuse. Tread carefully, if you think these might affect you. But on the whole it is not a dark, sad tale. There is just enough hint of hope in the end.

One easy trap to fall into while writing a book such as this, is creating characters that are caricatures or stock characters. It is to the author’s credit, that even though we find all the usual suspects–the popular girl, the jock, the pretty girl with no friends, the Asian struggling to keep up to his parent’s expectations, etc, they do not feel like cardboard cut-outs. They are fleshed out and real enough for the reader to care about them.

I do wish the book had more representations though–POC, LGBTQIA etc. This is one place where I felt the book could have been better.

This is a book that each reader must experience for themselves. After all, many if not all of us, I’m guessing, have been through one form of high-school or another, and good or bad, it has made us who we are. My brush with it left me a stronger, more determined person, with the belief that no matter what happens, life must go on. This ultimately seems to be the message that the author wants us to take away too.

Have you read this book? What did you think of it? What was high school like for you? Let me know in the comments!

FTC disclaimer: I received an ARCΒ of this book from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for this honest review.

Author Bio:Β http://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/authors/224454/lindsey-lee-johnson

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12 thoughts on “Book Review: The Most Dangerous Place on Earth

  1. It’s hard to imagine high school + social media. Definitely agree. I see your criticisms about broader representation, but I do think this book tackled a lot.. can’t imagine more being piled on. And it is Marin County.. very white affluent segment of the population.

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    • Yes, I do agree that with the book set in Marin county, and being what it is, it has done a very good job.

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  2. Wow, that book sounds quite intense, but I’m glad to hear there is hope just as well. A shame there isn’t a broader representation here of different, diverse characters, but it is still good to have books like these dealing with high school and how this can be such a crucial and hard part of life for so many people. Lovely review πŸ™‚

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  3. I can’t imagine what high school kids go through these days with social media and it’s not like the school has a lot of power to regulate things like Twitter. At least I don’t believe they do. It’s not something I would have liked to have dealt with when I was younger.

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  4. I remember that social media was just getting started when I was around 15. And by that I mean AOL instant messenger and ICQ chat, neither of which I think even exists anymore (or if it does, no one is using them). This was all on the computer; smart phones didn’t exist. That was hard enough! I still remember one time when I sent a message to X, when I meant to send the message to Y. I lost a lot of friends that day. πŸ˜‘

    I have noticed that quite a few of my book blogger friends are reviewing YA books that have suicide in them. Part of me is happy we’re discussing it, but the other part of me wonders if it makes suicide seem normal or possibly even romantic. One concern that a lot of people have about the Netflix show Thirteen Reasons Why is that it makes suicide seem like a last big hurrah, a mystery to leave your friends remembering you, a way to go out that seems “cool.” I mean, if someone is going to write a book to bring attention to the horror of suicide, why not make it as utterly realistic as possible? What do you think?

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    • 13 reasons why has its problems, absolutely agree. Which is why I think this book is better, because it is very non-gimmicky. It doesn’t make suicide seem cool, and treats it like the tragedy it is. It was very realistic I thought.
      I think it’s I important to write about suicide because a) there is a lot of victim blaming attached to it, which What is terrible. b) for those who are contemplating it, it can be a mirror that shows alternatives.
      But obviously, like you said, it needs to be written realistically and sensitively. Perhaps a list of resources and numbers to call at the end of the books would also help.

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  5. I thought this book was a great read, although it made me so glad that I graduated from school long before social media was a thing. I worry about my son growing up in such an age. I do agree with you about the representation though. It was a bit lacking in that area.

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    • I’m glad you enjoyed the read as much as I did. And yeah, it is quite worrying, how much the generations ahead of us are affected by social media.

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    • Hi Jordan, Thanks for stopping and reading! I hope you’ll check out the book the next time you see it 😊 I think you will enjoy the read 😊

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