Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Random by Tom Leveen

I used to think Tom's tagline should be, "Tom Leveen: Better Than Expected!"  After reading RANDOM, I'm pretty sure he's earned an upgrade to, "All Hail Tom Leveen: King Of Teen Contemporary."

If you ask someone what this book is about, they're likely to tell you it's about bullying.

But it's not.

It's about a girl's eight-hour journey to self-discovery.  Tori, on trial for aggravated manslaughter after making some crude jokes about a fellow classmate after he commented on one of her posts and then later commits suicide, receives a call at random from a guy threatening to drive himself off of a cliff. The story is about the conversation they have and the lengths which she goes to try to help him stay alive.

It's about Tori's struggle to find her center, and with a little support from a really good friend, she's able to have some breakthroughs that you normally wouldn't get the night before you are showing up to court to defend yourself for a crime you feel you didn't commit.  It's a beautiful lesson in strength and growth that we all can learn from.  And it's strangely uplifting with such morbid subject matter.

The writing is genius.  It shows the teen brain in a real light, with a heavy focus on fairness and self-preservation.  The use of the mourning dove as imagery is just, I don't even know.  Brilliant?  Epic?  Inspired?

It's a short book, but the character development is amazing.  The plot is easy to follow and the way the story weaves in the history that caused the current situation is flawless.  I honestly couldn't rave more about this book, its structure, or its execution.  The setting is appropriate, and Tom doesn't waste words on unimportant details.  It's concise and powerful and unputdownable.  <--that a="" mmkay="" p="" s="" word="">
I'm usually rather outspoken about the fact that I feel that the term "bullying" has been applied too liberally.  I don't think that saying mean things to someone is bullying them.  I think we have to develop a thick skin somewhere and as someone who was both bullied and did some bullying in my day, I feel like the spectrum I engaged in during my junior high and high school experience has made me a stronger, more compassionate person today.

But, this book turned my perception of bullying on its ear.  By showing me the psychology of the cyberbully, Tom opened my eyes.  And while I still don't think that saying something mean to someone's face should be means for expulsion from school, I do believe that cyberbullying is a real issue.  Deliberately making someone feel small is not okay, not in real life or in virtual life.  Cyberbullying and hiding behind a computer to say horrid things to someone is a real problem.  It's not one that I've faced, but it's one that my child may face.  And it all goes back to that whole thing I was saying a few weeks ago about content and parents managing what their children consume.  That has to stretch to social media as well.  If we want our children to be civil, we have to be involved so that we can teach them how to act in a real -or virtual- situation.  

PARENTS: The subject matter is heavy on bullying.  It has references to drugs (though not any active use thereof), strong language including many instances of the "f-word" and references to homophobia and hate crimes.  Like always, you know what your teen or child can handle, so you decide.  

Tom will be at Changing Hands Tempe tonight at 7pm for his book launch of Random.  You can watch the live stream of the launch here, and make sure you pick up a copy this week from your local Indie, or if you like, from Amazon.

Also, I really liked the first cover better than this one.  It was so much more appropriate.