A class of seventh graders deal with verbal bullying in this thought-provoking novel (with cautions).
Posted by John David Anderson. Walden Pond (HarperCollins), 2017, 365 pages.
Reading level: 10-12
Recommended for: 12-15
They are a tribe, those four: Eric (aka Frost), Avik, Morgan, and JJ, though when he transferred to Branton Middle School after his parents broke up, Eric didn’t think he would ever belong. Then he fell in with JJ (nicknamed Bench, because even though he joined every possible sports team he seldom got to play) and those two clicked with musical prodigy Morgan (Wolf) and nerdy Avik (DeeDee). They had each other’s backs until the new girl barged in—but even before that came the cell phone confiscation, when the school authorities cracked down on cruel texts. Bereft of electronics, the kids find a way: there’s always pencil and paper, and a few Post-It notes become a flood of words—funny, dumb, stupid, mean, actionable.
Words are ghosts that can haunt us forever. That’s Wolf’s aphorism, and after the random heat-seeking missiles of the class bullies have targeted DeeDee, they seek out Wolf, who not only has problems with fighting parents at home but is also targeted as gay. This is a very common middle-school taunt, but Wolf may actually be gay; that part of the story is handled with ambiguity and restraint. Eric, a budding poet and wordsmith has to figure out his own part in this drama: what to think, what to do, and especially what to say. The story is told with great sympathy and restraint, drawing the reader into these characters’ lives to such an extent that it’s a great relief when nobody dies. These kids will probably survive middle school but they all have some growing up to do.
In spite of some questionable content (see cautions), Posted raises some valuable questions about the weight of words and how we treat each other. There’s a growing consensus on college campuses today that words are equal to violence: What should a Christian think about that (see Proverbs 2:12, 12:6, 12:18, 17:27, 18:8)? What would a crackdown on words mean for freedom of speech? Can we effectively police speech for other people, or should we even try?
Cautions: Language (some omg, a few “hells,” common vulgarities like pissed and turd); Sexuality (one of the characters is accused of being gay)
Overall rating: 4 (out of 5, with cautions)
- Worldview/moral value: 3.5
- Artistic value: 4.5