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Adoff, Jaime. Names will never hurt me.

Penguin Putnam, Dutton. 187p. c2004. 0-525-47175-8. $15.99. JS

Adoff's poetry has grown from the free-flowing rhythmic verse of his first collection of music poetry to a complex chorus of four voices telling the gritty back-story of high school life. Written as a novel in verse, the tale gets inside the heads of the star jock, the bullied outcast, the mixed-race girl who doesn't fit in, and the principal's self-important snitch However, Adoff shuns standard stereotypes by creating multi-dimensional adolescents whose public personas mask their insecurities, anxieties, and longing for acceptance. The novel is divided into chapters, each panning the scene, showing the story from different angles. The setting is a typical high school during an atypical event--the first anniversary of the shooting death of a student. Periodically interrupting the plot, a hungry news reporter asks leading questions to random students hoping for an exclusive scoop. But she never gets the answers she expects. The events in each of the main characters' lives overlap until they are all brought together in a climax with an unexpected twist.

Adoff addresses issues of social exclusion, sex and violence honestly and in the authentic voices of his high school students. He reminds his readers that, in fact, names always hurt, and being labeled in adolescence can lead to self-loathing and unforeseen consequences reaching well beyond the school walls. Michele Winship, Asst. Prof., Capital Univ. Columbus, OH
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Author:Winship, Michele
Publication:Kliatt
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Mar 1, 2004
Words:233
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