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.
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 Earth 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 ARC of this book from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for this honest review.