The Taking of Room 114: A Hostage Drama in Poems

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Editorial Reviews

VOYA - Bonnie Kunzel
Once again, free verse by an accomplished poet is used to provide a vivid picture of high school life. It is June 16, right before graduation for the seniors at Tower High. Those taking Mr. Wiedermeyer's senior history class, however, are in for a shock. When they enter the classroom, they find him waiting for them-with a gun in his hand. There is panic outside the classroom, with the media underfoot and the police called in to handle a hostage situation. Meanwhile, inside the classroom Mr. Wiedermeyer talks to Michael, his son who died in what was reported as a surfing accident. At the same time Wiedermeyer alternates between pointing the gun at himself and his students, as if trying to make up his mind. Each student is introduced by five poems, one for every year of his or her high school career and the last depicting the individual's thoughts and feelings on June 16, before walking into Mr. Wiedermeyer's room. This is not as intense as Who Killed Mr. Chippendale? A Mystery in Poems (Dutton/Lodestar, 1996/VOYA December 1996), perhaps because we are on the outside looking in, at least until the very end. The format is appealing, with a lot of white space that would make it a terrific read for reluctant readers. All in all, this is an interesting premise in which nicely crafted poems are tied together neatly in the end. You feel for this teacher gone round the bend, but at the same time you are exposed to the fear of the students, the anger of the parents, and the crassness of the media. The result is a page-turner that is a dissection of high school life, with a dollop of terror thrown in. VOYA Codes: 4Q 5P J S (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses, Every YA (who reads) was dying to read it yesterday, Junior High-defined as grades 7 to 9 and Senior High-defined as grades 10 to 12).
The ALAN Review - Mike Angelotti
The subtitle, "A Hostage Drama in Poems," nicely summarizes the clever scheme of this book. Mr. Weidemeyer, a revered Tower High School history teacher, snaps and takes hostage at gunpoint his senior history class. The reader is taken into and through the story via a set of revealing poems by Weidemeyer, his students, and other principal characters. Mel Glenn fans will not be disappointed by his ninth book as he once again explores with great delicacy and truth the psyches of people and institutions that compose the greater school community. Many themes run through the book, not the least of which is the proposition that within each of us is a complex of stories often hidden from others by the stereotypes attached to the roles that we play, or seem to play. We are more than students and teachers, children and parents, school administrators and police officers. And so it is that the unvoiced inner lives of the characters drive the surface narrative to its conclusion. The book is an engaging, easy read, rich with points of discussion and potential writing prompts.
School Library Journal
Gr 8-10At 8 a.m. on June 16th, the seniors are lined up in the courtyard waiting to receive their yearbooks. Some flirt. Some daydream. Some are impatient. All of them will be in first-period history class where their teacher, Mr. Wiedermeyer, will lock the classroom door, brandish a gun, and hold them all hostage. Glenn's proven ear for the cadence of speech is exercised here with great skill while telling the story of each character's life and preoccupation. The many points of view expressed, the typographical versatility, and the creative use of white space all add interest to the unfolding story of the tragedy of a teacher's life and the vivid stories of his students. Unfortunately, melodrama supplants real drama. Stereotypical portrayals spoil any real involvement, and predictability destroys the suspense. The Jewish student is being pushed by his parents; the Asian student is hellbent toward success; the one with artistic talent thinks he is gay; one is pregnant; one is abused, etc. And the reporters are uncaring and aggressive; the parents scream and yell; and the administration bumbles along. The selections lack the conceits that heighten the enjoyment of traditional poetrymetaphor, simile, alliteration, onomatopoeia. But they're never boring and often very clever. YAs will find their interest piqued and reluctant readers particularly will be drawn to the excitement of design and content.Marjorie Lewis, formerly at Heathcote School, Scarsdale, NY
Kirkus Reviews
A veteran high-school teacher cracks, holding his class at gunpoint on the last day of school in this drama-in-poetry from Glenn (Who Killed Mr. Chippendale?, 1996, etc.).

Writing in conversational free-verse trains of thought, Glenn probes the hopes, fears, conceits, and moods of students, officials, and bystanders, introducing each of the hostages with a series of vignettes that trace the evolution of a particular idea or relationship through four years of school and to the beginning of class that fateful day. Fond of playing with language and irony—e.g., pairing poems in which the speakers express opposite views in nearly the same words—the author keeps the focus so firmly on individuals that the plot is really only a pretext for a series of earnest character portraits. From Morton Potter's determined assault on his weight problem to Denise Slattery cooing to her unborn child, readers will find plenty of familiar peer attitudes and situations with which to identify and to ponder. The teacher's own voice is heard in a handful of despondent poems: "I speak./Who listens?/I teach./Who cares? . . . There's little I have done to make a difference." After the teacher's capture, police find a clipping in his pocket describing his 27-year-old son's apparent suicide by drowning. An arresting, if undeveloped, premise cements a gallery of recognizable high-school seniors fretting about—or blowing off—their pasts and futures.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780525675488
  • Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 3/1/1997
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 192
  • Age range: 11 - 17 Years
  • Product dimensions: 5.76 (w) x 8.56 (h) x 0.79 (d)

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