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Paper Covers Rock Hardcover – June 14, 2011
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"Hubbard has a superb handle on her boarding school setting...A powerful, ambitious debut."
Starred Review, School Library Journal, June 2011:
"The story builds to a climax that will have readers on edge. It could be read alongside many of the classics that deal with friendship and loyalty, as well as deceit...Those who are looking for something to ponder will enjoy this compelling read."
Starred Review, The Horn Book Magazine, July/August 2011:
"Hubbard’s characters are confounding and intriguing...The traditional, buttoned-up boarding school setting makes the perfect backdrop to this tense dictation of secrets, lies, manipulation, and the ambiguity of honor."
Starred Review, Booklist, July 1, 2011:
"Both plotting and characters are thoroughly crafted in this stellar first novel. The poetry that Hubbard produces from Alex’s pen is brilliant, and the prose throughout is elegant in its simplicity. Reminiscent of John Knowles’ classic coming-of-age story, A Separate Peace (1959), this novel introduces Hubbard as a bright light to watch on the YA literary scene."
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Top Customer Reviews
I read this brilliant book last night. One sitting. The four most enthralling hours I've spent with a book in a long, long time.
A group of students at a boys' boarding school cope with the aftermath of a drowning death. How much do they tell? Who else knows what happened? What did they see? These questions form the wellspring of a stopry filled with tension, guilt, betrayal, as well as an assurance the life goes on after a tragedy.
Comparisons to "A Separate Peace" are apt. The author has clearly read (numerously) and come to intellectually own John Knowles' story, and while she borrows pretty broadly from the earlier novel's motif, her tale is wholly her own. I guess one of the reasons I found "Paper Covers Rock" so compelling is the time setting, 1982. I was a freshman in college that fall, living, for the first time, the kind of residential academic life portrayed in the book. The cultural references (down to Alex's father's love for Simon & Garfunkel) bespoke my cultural sensibility at the time and gave an air of ivy-covered familiarity to it all.
The structure of the novel fascinated me. The sub-headings were all consistently married to certain aspects of the narrative: variations on the title headed sections describing Thomas' death, sections headed by a student's name focused on their part of the tapestry, and I'm sure that had I ever read "Moby-Dick" the chapter headings would have rung out to me. The story was easy to follow despite the back-and-forth of its placement in time.
And the characters. Oh, how well-drawn they are! I really got into Alex's head and felt that, after just 181 pages, I really knew him. Glenn was nearly perfect.Read more ›
I had chills reading this novel. As I neared the end, I had the distinct feeling that I was in the presence of greatness, a book that will leave an indelible mark on literature for years to come. From the beautiful language, to the clever turns of phrase, to the deep exploration of classic issues like guilt, deceit and loyalty, PAPER COVERS ROCK truly has all the hallmarks of a classic.
This is a book that will stand the test of time and will stand alongside novels like THE CHOCOLATE WAR and A SEPARATE PEACE.
This book is a breath of fresh air in the YA genre that is so often a wasteland of trendy romance and/or bloodthirsty, amoral thrillers. It gives one heart to know that teen readers have an offering like this on the bookshelf. The story is told by Alex, a junior at a boys' boarding school. Alex has just witnessed the drowning death of a friend. The book is written as his purported journal as he struggles with what may have really happened that day, his feelings for his English teacher, Miss Dovecott, and the hidden agenda of his best friend who was there that day too.
Hubbard's young male hero is fully human in his range of emotions--he has his lusty moments, as well as his feelings of guilt. The reviewer in Kirkus doubts that the 16 year old could write with the eloquence which Hubbard gives him, but I don't. Teenagers are perhaps MORE in touch with their eloqent poet-selves than are older people, it seems to me. I believed Alex's every word. This book rang true. And it rang deep. I couldn't put it down--and--can you believe it, no one had to speak in valley-girl slang, have random sex, get bitten by a vampire, or burned to death. It is a character-driven book.
And it is also a thoroughly contemporary book in its structure--the short chapters and sub-chapters were non-intrusive and seem natural to the story, but also give it a very living, breathing, facebooking, twittering edge to the read.
John Gardner, that great critic who wrote On Moral Fiction, would be proud of this first novel by Jenny Hubbard. He would stand and cheer for her. He would say thanks for believing in the YA audience and not talking down to them.Read more ›
Jenny Hubbard's PAPER COVERS ROCK seems, in many ways, to be a direct descendent of Knowles's classic. There have been plenty of other boarding school novels published in the intervening years since its release (remember a little place called Hogwarts?), but Hubbard's book shares not only some basic plot points with Knowles's but also a certain atmosphere, a vibe, a willingness to dig deep into the cultures and contradictions of this insular world.
Sixteen-year-old Alex Stromm knows that attending boarding school at The Birches is his best chance to pursue the kind of life he hopes to find for himself. His parents are divorced, his mom largely absent and his dad preoccupied with his own teaching far away. Alex longs to write, poetry especially, and The Birches is a place where a boy who loves words as much as he loves running cross-country can feel at home. It doesn't hurt that his new English teacher is beautiful Miss Dovecott, a recent Princeton graduate who is only five years older than Alex and is the subject not only of his fantasies but also a whole lot of harassment on the part of his classmates.
The year is 1982, after all, and this is a boys' school in North Carolina. Cell phones don't exist, female teachers are a rarity, and homophobia runs rampant.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I was disappointed by this book. I had read Hubbard's other book--And We Stay--and absolutely loved it, and I ordered this one immediately after. Read morePublished 8 months ago by Sara Dawn
Not as good A Separate Peace, but a well told first person youth novel.Published 10 months ago by Superteacher
This book offers some insight of life choices and meaning, however, it does not fully answer the question of the purpose of life. Read morePublished 18 months ago by Sharon B. Stedman
The story is very well written and would be an excellent resource for a class novel study. Lots of great opportunities to discuss relevant topics. Read morePublished 20 months ago by NC Reader
I had the pleasure of meeting author Jenny Hubbard at a book fair in Bowling Green, Kentucky, last weekend, and I have since read her book. Read morePublished 21 months ago by Charles F. Myers
I bought this book a while back and finally got time to read it. It began a little slow but once I got more to the meat of the story it grew on me. Read morePublished 21 months ago by Savannah (Books With Bite)
3.5 of 5 stars
Boarding school Junior Alex Stromm is traumatized by witnessing the drowning death of his classmate. Read more
Ok, so I know I cheated, and this doesn't really count, but here's my opinion:
I only read the beginning and the end, but it didn't seem like a whole lot happened in between... Read more