Paper Covers Rock

Posted January 21, 2012 by Tara in Challenges /// 9 Comments

This cover looks like Gossip Girl. This book is definitely not like Gossip Girl.

Paper Covers Rock
by Jenny Hubbard
Purchased on my Nook
[#10 in my 75 book challenge]

This is one of those books that presents the reader with a terrible situation, and swirls around the truth of that situation for the entire novel until the truth is revealed at the end.

Plus there are lots of Moby Dick references and some INTENSE sexual tension (with a teacher, no less).

Alex and his friends, Thomas and Glenn, were drinking vodka in the woods near their all-male boarding school in Asheville, North Carolina (hey, another local book!). Each of the boys jumped off a large rock into the French Broad river, but only two came up alive. Thomas died when he didn’t clear the jump, leaving Alex and Glenn to make sense of exactly what happened that day on the river.

So yeah. There are secrets. LOTS of secrets. The secrets are what kept me reading and what kept me glued to the book, finishing it in one sitting.

The story is told almost like a series of essays. It’s definitely a cohesive story, but each sub-section reads like a high school English essay. Some of the sections actually are Alex’s high school English essays and poems. Alex is supposedly writing the story in a journal, which he is hiding on the shelves of the library, so they essay thing kind of makes sense. The writing does feel a bit pretentious and faux-literary at times, but what would you expect from a high school junior at an all-boys boarding school? I guess, in that sense, it worked and the style was realistic. But sometimes it drove me nuts with too much literary allusion.

Final Grade:   B   It was better than average, and I had a superb reading experience. Any book that keeps me gripped the way this one did deserves a good grade! It did have some pitfalls in terms of being a little too literary and trying a little bit too hard. I liked it, though, and I might even re-read it one day. There might be more layers than I could get at on the first go-round.

As for my recommendations as a media specialist — I think this one belongs in a high school library, but not a middle school. I don’t say that often. The content is fine, no more sexual or dark than other books we own, but the writing style would be beyond 99% of my students. There are better, more age-appropriate books I could buy with my funds.


Tara is a PhD student studying education. Her dissertation will be on digital book communities as public pedagogy (ask her about it!), though she often takes a break from all of that to read books about oppressive governments and sassy teenagers. In a former life, she was a middle school teacher and middle school librarian. In her future life, she's a professor of YA lit. In her free time, she drinks a lot of coffee while planning her next grand adventure (there's always something).

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9 responses to “Paper Covers Rock

  1. Your review here reminds me of one or two actual drinking-and-playing-with-guns-we-didn’t think-were-loaded episodes back in my home town, which resulted in at least one high school boy being killed! I remember how we used to get all high-flown with our literary allusions in junior and senior year English class essay assignments. Another excellent review job here, Miss Anderson. I agree; I think this book would not be very age appropriate for middle school students.

  2. […] Who I recommend it to: Though my review makes it sound like a mystery novel, it’s really more of a YA book. There’s a lot of literary references, especially to Moby Dick, since Alex is working through a lot of his feelings in his writing and in his English class. I recommend it to high school and college students, and anyone who enjoys a good boarding school novel. I also recommend it to fans of darker contemporary YA. If you are interested in learning more about the novel, you can read my original review here. […]

  3. […] Who I recommend it to: This is such a great book for a middle schooler, especially one about to turn thirteen. Jeremy’s story might also be good bibliotherapy for anyone who has ever lost a parent. I also recommend it to teachers, librarians, and parents who work with this age group, as it would be a great book to read if you are familiar with middle grades fiction (its positives as a genre and its short comings — often in terms of predictability contrived plots). It would also be a great book to read with middle grades students. I don’t recommend it fans of YA who want more edgy/daring books. […]

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