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Or Not

Or Not

5.0 2
by Brian Mandabach

When 14 year-old Cassie Sullivan-smart, sensitive, and perceptive-stands up for her beliefs, the flagpole Christian majority decides she's the school Antichrist. Cassie had no idea defending Darwin and refusing to sing "Proud to be an American" would be such a big deal. But it's a brave new world of post-9/11 paranoia in her über-conservative Colorado school.


When 14 year-old Cassie Sullivan-smart, sensitive, and perceptive-stands up for her beliefs, the flagpole Christian majority decides she's the school Antichrist. Cassie had no idea defending Darwin and refusing to sing "Proud to be an American" would be such a big deal. But it's a brave new world of post-9/11 paranoia in her über-conservative Colorado school. Trying to stay cool while the torments increase, Cassie wonders if anything is really worth it. Taking solace in her journal, she begins to question if simply being is what she really wants. Or Not?

Editorial Reviews

Cassie Sullivan is one of the best students in her class, but it does not mean that she enjoys school. A seasoned outsider, Cassie's increasingly unpopular opinions push her from pariah to public-enemy-number-one. After speaking up on loaded topics like religion, evolution, and patriotism, Cassie becomes the object of her peers' persecution. They call her Osama bin Sullivan, shove her in the hallways, and fill her locker with hostile notes. Cassie tries to ignore everything, shrinking into the shadows and hoping it will pass. After a while, she decides that she must stop pretending to be invisible and start being seen. She alters her appearance-drawing more attention to herself with her shaved head and provocative clothing-continues to speak her mind, and even makes some new friends. The trouble at school is only part of Cassie's problem. Although she continually denies that she is depressed or suicidal, she spends an awful lot of time ruminating on her unhappiness. Her issues at school and her overall state of mind are too much to handle alone, and Cassie must learn to let others take control and help when they can. The story suffers from being far too long and confusing. Cassie is in eighth grade, but she recounts many incidents from fifth through seventh grades, jumbling all the events together into a bewildering time line. Although Cassie is refreshingly opinionated and the issues she addresses are important, readers may have trouble relating to her. Reviewer: Amanda MacGregor
School Library Journal

Gr 9 Up- Eighth-grader Cassie Sullivan is big for her age, physically and intellectually. She has strong opinions: She hates WWJD bracelets and NCLB-driven standardized tests. She rejects cell phones, CDs, and MP3s, but adores her vinyl record collection. She also loves visiting her family's place in the Colorado mountains, gazing up at the stars and thinking about infinity. She believes that the world is almost certainly more than 6000 years old; that things with faces probably shouldn't be eaten; and that war, despite any trumpeted reasoning, is still just a sad human failing. At the beginning of the school year she defends evolution and finds herself, as she starts the first of the 11 journals that comprise this diary novel, ostracized from-and bullied by-most of her classmates, who begin calling her Cassie the Antichrist. Her refusal to sing "America the Beautiful" in choir earns her the name Osama O'Sullivan. With some help from her brother's college-age girlfriend and a compassionate GT teacher, Cassie considers a scheme to skip through her current hell and jump directly to high school, all the time wondering "is it worth it? Is anything worth it?" Librarians will want to slip this excellent and therapeutic selection to precocious early teens facing similar alienation, depression, and bullying issues. Just be aware that there is frank language and references to drug and alcohol use.-Jeffrey Hastings, Highlander Way Middle School, Howell, MI

Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Cassie Sullivan is a precocious, spoiled 14-year-old who feels lonely and without hope a year after 9/11. Over the summer, her interest in nature and Tolkien, rather than shopping, causes her friends to dissociate from her. She feels depressed and frustrated by the lack of compassion or political involvement from her fellow students. After she refuses to sing "I'm Proud to Be an American" at the school assembly for the first anniversary of 9/11, her classmates harass her, nicknaming her "Osama O'Sullivan" or "Bin Laden's ho." The book is divided into 11 parts with Cassie carefully recording her thoughts, frustrations and political opinions over the course of two months in her diary. When her behavior causes her boyfriend to be sent to a different school, Cassie goes into a downward spiral and wonders if life is worth living. Those looking for light reading will instead discover a young woman who shuns the digital age, preferring vinyl records to CDs, and who is looking for some meaning in a world she suddenly finds unstable. (Fiction. 12-15)

Product Details

North Star Editions
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.19(w) x 8.00(h) x 1.40(d)
840L (what's this?)
Age Range:
12 - 18 Years

Read an Excerpt

Journal One

Meet the Author

Brian Mandabach teaches writing to teens in Colorado. He has been a public school teacher for over a decade. Or Not is his first novel.

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Or Not 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
TeensReadToo More than 1 year ago
Cassie is my hero. She is an intelligent non-conformist who is stuck in junior high.

...OR NOT? starts with the summer before Cassie goes into eighth grade. It is told through Cassie's journal. She lives with her mom and dad and has a brother in college. They live in Colorado and have a rustic cabin, which she loves, in the mountains. Her family walks to a different drummer, with her father being a lawyer and her mother a musician.

They are a family who talks at the dinner table of politics and philosophy. They enjoy being together, especially at the cabin. That is where Cassie would like to be always. She loves the mountains and all of nature. She really is at home there.

Cassie doesn't fit in at school, though. She is odd because she really doesn't care about the things that her classmates care about. Her style of dress is different and she shaves off her hair, but doesn't shave her legs. She has fits of depression and thoughts of suicide. During her eighth-grade year she finally finds a group of friends. But before that she must endure religious intolerance, paranoia, and horrible bullying.

The school officials were ineffective, which made me sad but is also realistic because I teach school and it can be a minefield. Cassie discovers and learns to really love herself by the end of the novel and it is a truly wondrous ride. I recommend this book if you really don't fit, but even if you do you might learn something about how the other half feels. I laughed, cried, and couldn't wait to hear what would happen to Cassie. ...OR NOT? is also well-written. It's always nice when the story is great and the writing superb!
Guest More than 1 year ago
You have to buy this book for your teen...it is fantastic..!