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Split Image

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Everyone has an image of Laura Li, the most popular girl in school: "stone hearted", "warmhearted", "conceited deceiver", "humble achiever", "a virgin", "the hottest girl in the world".

Award-winning poet Mel Glenn weaves a brilliant web of authentic voices in this riveting story, told in poetry, about what happens when one teenage girl is denied the freedom to determine her own identity.

A series of poems reflect the thoughts and ...

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Everyone has an image of Laura Li, the most popular girl in school: "stone hearted", "warmhearted", "conceited deceiver", "humble achiever", "a virgin", "the hottest girl in the world".

Award-winning poet Mel Glenn weaves a brilliant web of authentic voices in this riveting story, told in poetry, about what happens when one teenage girl is denied the freedom to determine her own identity.

A series of poems reflect the thoughts and feelings of various people--students, the librarian, parents, the principal, and others--about the seemingly perfect Laura Li and her life inside and out of Tower High School.

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Editorial Reviews

To quote KLIATT's March 2000 review of the hardcover edition: In the eyes of the Tower High School community, popular student Laura Li appears to be perfect. Most of her peers see her as bright, kind, and beautiful, and she is desired by the boys and envied by the girls. She works in the school library, where the librarian treats her like a daughter, and she cooks and cares for her crippled, sickly elder brother at home, as a dutiful Chinese daughter is expected to do. But Laura is deeply unhappy, and resentful of the pressures her family puts on her to do well at school and to be responsible for her brother. Laura is not allowed to date, but she sneaks out at night to dance, drink, and flirt at clubs. She rarely sees her father, and her mother beats her when she asks to go to the prom, angry at her American ways—but ironically, when Laura submits an outstanding essay to an American Legion contest, the prize is denied her because she is not an American citizen. Frustrated by her "broken dreams," feeling trapped by family rules and expectations, Laura Li commits suicide in the library at school, shocking everyone. Her story is told through a series of one or two-page blank verse poems by various people who knew her (or thought they knew her)—other students, the school librarian, family members—as well as by Laura herself. The reader must piece together Laura's life from these varying views. In the process readers learn something about the writers of the poems, too, and the ways in which people can be different from their images. Glenn's trademark style of telling a poignant tale through poetry and multiple viewpoints, as in his Foreign Exchange (reviewed in KLIATT in May 1999), isunusual and effective; English teachers may want to suggest it as a technique for their students to try. This is a quick and engaging read, and a good pick for reluctant readers, too. An ALA Best Book for YAs. KLIATT Codes: JS*—Exceptional book, recommended for junior and senior high school students. 2000, HarperTempest, 154p.,
— Paula Rohrlick
Children's Literature - Children's Literature
In this unique book, the narrative is drawn through a series of poems. The verses revolve around a high school student named Laura Li. The Lis are a Chinese immigrant family trying to live the American dream. The dream seems more like a nightmare to Laura Li. She is not allowed to go away to college because she is needed at home to help take care of her invalid older brother. Laura's father, whom she adores, is away on business almost all the time. Some of Laura's fellow students at Tower High School think she is wonderful; others hate her. More than a few are in love with her. The poems are related through more than a dozen characters, including Laura and her family, as well as students and faculty, each of whom speaks with a distinctive voice. Laura's problems take a startling and tragic turn when her mother forbids her to attend the senior prom. The last third of the book reads like a script to an action film, including verses by firefighters and other emergency personnel. 2000, HarperCollins, Ages 12 up, $15.95. Reviewer: Christopher Moning
As in Glenn's previous eleven novels, beginning with Class Dismissed: High School Poems (Clarion, 1982/VOYA August 1982), this sad and disturbing story is told through poems representing the voices of students and adults associated with Tower High and its library. Protagonist Laura Li is faced with an absentee father, a traditional and harsh Chinese mother who dislikes American ways, and a disabled brother whom she must nurse. She is desperately unhappy, but as a library aide, her classmates view her as popular, friendly, and strait-laced. Soon readers learn of Laura's secret life—she sneaks out evenings to barhop, meet unsavory men, and enter the drug scene. Laura's story ends sadly, and although her acquaintances express surprise, readers should foresee the ending. Glenn's characters are realistic, with poignant and interesting personal stories, ably demonstrating how and why reading is absent—or present—in their lives. As their voices tend to talk to rather than about Laura, readers do not gain full insight into her character or popularity. Often Laura's comments are complaints or expressions of resignation, without demonstrating reflection or planning for change, sometimes making her unsympathetic. Nevertheless this novel will be an enjoyable read for any middle and lower high school student. It certainly provides pause to the reader about the status of reading and literacy among adolescents. The point of finding one's own identity and having the freedom to do so is important to these students, and this book would be exceptionally valuable regarding this subject. VOYA CODES: 4Q 4P M J (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; Broad general YA appeal;Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9). 2000, HarperCollins, 159p, $15.95. Ages 12 to 15. Reviewer: Lisa Spiegel

SOURCE: VOYA, October 2000 (Vol. 23, No. 4)

School Library Journal
Gr 8 Up-This novel is about stereotypes, misconceptions, and public vs. private personas. The central figure is Laura Li, an immigrant from China whose life revolves around Tower High School and her family responsibilities. Her businessman father is never around and, in speaking to her mother, the girl says, "-Mother, I will do anything you ask,/To prove that a second-born/Can take first place in your heart." She wonders where to turn for an identity, a purpose. In another selection, she states, "I think God has an answering machine./He's never home, though,-./In the meantime, I wonder,/Does He ever check His messages?" The poems and dialogue exchanges, many of which take place in the library, provide glimpses of classmates, faculty, and family, and all offer insights into Laura Li's life, as well as the life the others think she leads. The action is easy to follow, and although there are too many characters for any of them to be developed in much depth, their entries help to flesh out the story line. The narrative shifts gears several times, and readers may be caught off guard by the teen's suicide. A powerful look at perceptions and what lies behind them.-Sharon Korbeck, Waupaca Area Public Library, WI Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
Kirkus Reviews
Glenn (Foreign Exchange, 1999, etc.) returns to his favorite setting, turbulent Tower High, for more teen melodrama cast in short, mostly free verse, poems. Here readers meet Laura Li, a bright, beautiful, popular library monitor whose outward perfection masks inward fury, shame and hurt: because her businessman father is seldom home; because she's looking at a lifetime of caring for her disabled older brother; because her mother, whose heart is still back in China, heaps her with verbal and physical abuse at any sign of willfulness. Glenn develops Laura's character, then traces her rebellion from furtive beginnings to eventual suicide, indirectly, in a series of thoughts, comments, reactions and snatches of dialogue delivered by dozens of schoolmates and adults. His view of the adolescent landscape (and the adult one, too) is bleak, unrelieved by flat efforts to lighten the tone with concrete poems labeled `Library Fun`; still, there are occasional flickers of optimism in the simmering mix of confusion, anger and despair, and readers will find echoes in their own lives of many of the voices and attitudes here. Deeply felt, if not particularly profound. (Fiction. YA)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060004811
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 6/28/2002
  • Edition description: REPRINT
  • Pages: 160
  • Age range: 13 - 17 Years
  • Product dimensions: 5.00 (w) x 7.12 (h) x 0.32 (d)

Meet the Author

Mel Glenn is the author of eleven books for young adults, including Foreign Exchange (Morrow), Jump Ball (Dutton), and Who Killed Mr. Chippendale? (Dutton), which was nominated for the prestigious Edgar Allan Poe Award of the Mystery Writers of America. He has received the Christopher Award and the American Library Association has recognized many of his titles as Best Books for Young Adults. In addition, the American Library Association named Who Killed Mr. Chippendale? one of the Top Ten Books of the Year.

Mr. Glenn teaches English at Lincoln High School in Brooklyn, New York, where he and his wife, Elyse, live. They have two sons, Jonathan and Andrew.

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Read an Excerpt


I hate Laura Li
Because she is
The most popular girl in school.
She is a
Conceited deceiver
Who thinks only of herself.
She stabs you in the back
While looking you in the face.
Once, when I had a
Problem with my parents,
She turned a deaf ear, and said,
"What do I care?"
I hope she gets everything
That is coming to her.
She certainly is one of a kind.
But try telling that to my sister,


I love Laura Li
Because she is
The most popular girl in school.
She is a
Open minded,
Humble achiever
Who thinks only of other people.
She touches you in the heart
While looking you in the face.
Once, when I had a
Problem with my parents,
She let me lean on her shoulder and said,
"I really care."
I hope she gets everything
That's coming to her.
She is certainly one of a kind,
But try telling that to my sister,

Split Image. Copyright © by Mel Glenn. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 6 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 6 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 24, 2006


    Split Image, by Mel Glenn is a poignant and heartfelt story of high school love and the drama of being a teen. However, Split Image was more than that, it showed so many aspects that are part of not only being a teen, but of society as a whole. It focuses on issues such as racism, stereotyping, suicide, fear of failure, and the American dream. It broke the norm and was a completely fresh and original read. First of all, even the outline of the story is different. Glenn takes you through the lives of not only the main character, Laura Li, but also through those of her peers as well. Its deep insight is only made better by Glenn's unique writing style. He writes the entire book in poems, which make the story flow a lot better than it would have if he would have simply written it to normal standards. I felt like I could relate to the characters in the book, such as Alejandro's unrequited love and Laura Li's hatred of the pressure from her parents and her older brother's illness. It caught and held my attention until the end, when the realism of Laura Li's sadness was finally recognized. It had a few weak points, such as it was a little hard to follow, and it didn't keep me in suspense the entire time, but overall, the author makes up for that and gives a beautiful and realistic depiction of life. It may not be timeless, but it will continue to be a favorite of mine for years to come.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 19, 2004


    This book was an awsome book for teenagers to read. i believe this book is a book that MOST teens would be interested in even though it is in poet form its a great book.I read this book with a class this year and some said they were exteremly confused but i was not. if you follow along with this book you will love it! its a great book and i highly recommend it to other teens!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 17, 2004

    one of the better works i have read

    this book is certainly unique. it's like shakespear, except it deals with issues we (teenagers) have, and also much more comprehendable. honestly, it kept my attention, that i finished the book in an hour

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 16, 2004


    Not the best book but it was ok. Some of the poems were real good and others weren't. But on the whole it was a good plot and everything, unique. I met the writer in person and he was a pretty nice guy.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 29, 2004

    really good

    this book was really good! it was a little sad, but still good. laura li is like so many other teens who feel trapped by the expectation of their families and pressure at school

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 25, 2002

    Split Image

    This book tell you about a girls life in poems, she has an older brother with and illness. Her whole life she has to takes care of him. More then his sister just like his mother. She gets good grades but sneaks out and does drugs. Everyoen loves her. I love this book a lot. You should buy it or check it out.

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