Thursday, November 01, 2007
If A Tree Falls At Lunch Period
Choldenko, Gennifer. 2007. If A Tree Falls at Lunch Period.
Opening line: This is lame but I'm actually looking forward to school this year, because every day this summer was like crap: dog crap, cat crap--I even had a few elephant crap days. Trust me, it was bad.
If A Tree Falls At Lunch Period has two narrators: a young girl, Kirsten McKenna, and a young boy, Walker Jones. One white, one black. Kirsten is going through some personal drama. Whether she's just a bit pudgy or actually bordering on overweight, her mother is on her case day and night 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. (Who wouldn't want to self-comfort with food after listening to her mother nag and nag and nag and nag and nag?) In addition to Kirsten's weight issues, Kirsten's parents seem to be having troubles of their own. They argue nonstop. It seems Kirsten's mom is bent on making sure no one in the house has any peace or self-esteem. No wonder Kirsten and her sister, Kippy, like to take refuge in the basement and watch tv and play with their pet rabbit. "They stopped seeing my little sister, Kippy, and me, and they definitely stopped hearing what we said. . . . It was funny for a while. Then it wasn't" (1).
Walker's troubles seem to be with finding his place in a new school. If memory serves me, he's new to the community, new to the school. And he's trying to balance his old life, his old friends, his old neighborhood, with the new. He's at a private school for one thing. And all the kids are from a different class, most are white.
These two become unlikely friends for a while. Then....well...that's a surprise.
Most of what I have to say about If A Tree Falls At Lunch Period comes from anger. Not anger or disappointment or frustration with Gennifer Choldenko. If anything, it speaks to her skill that her characters are so well-developed, so authentic, that they were able to rub me the wrong way. Who am I angry at? I hate--hate with a passion--Kirsten's mom. She is so condescending, so infuriating. She actually sides with the popular kids and the popular kids' moms against her own daughter. She essentially tells her daughter that all her problems are her own fault. That the popular kids who are so mean to her, so cruel to her aren't really mean; they aren't bullies. No, this mother has the gall to say that those kids are nice and wonderful and friendly. And that it is her daughter's fault that no one likes her. And the way she nags her about her weight, the way she NEVER listens to anything her daughter has to say, it made me want to smack her. The other people that irritated me are the popular kids, particularly a brat named Brianna. She's mean, she's cruel, she's racist, she's a snob. If there was any justice in the world, she'd be struck with lightning.
Anyway, the book is well written. And it's a fast, enjoyable read. While not all the characters are likable, all are well-developed.