Although written in the same multinarrator format Koss used so powerfully in The Girls, this middle-school problem novel, unfortunately, doesn't make the grade. Hoping to impress pretty, popular Sarah, unpopular Jake gives her a copy of last year's multiple-choice geography midterm (from his older sister's files). Sarah shares the goods with her best friend, Katie, and impulsively, with Danny and Rob. At zero hour, Katie's conscience kicks in and she answers the questions out of sequence, so that she can't benefit from the mnemonic device she and Sarah invented to remember the answers. The other three, however, use the purloined answers; Rob realizes, too late, that the test has changed. Within a few hours, their teacher has somehow figured out that the students must have seen a previous exam, and Sarah, Danny and Rob are in trouble. This improbable setup occasions souped-up consequences, including (but not limited to) Rob's running away from home, Danny's girlfriend breaking up with him ("Who can trust a guy like that?... You can never know what else he'll, like, feel comfy lying about") and a crisis in Katie and Sarah's friendship. An artificiality permeates the characters' voices as well. Sarah is prone to cute versifying ("Whatever debatie/ No matter how weighty/ Or how irritatey/ I never could hatie/ My bestest friend Katie"); Rob speaks mainly in fragments. Koss's fans are likely to be disappointed. Ages 10-up. (Feb.)
Sarah starts it. The answers to the eighth-grade geography midterm are in her hands. Sarah decides to share her good fortune with a few classmates. Little does she know that this will turn into something far more dangerous than she could have imagined. A trip to the principal's office is not Rob's idea of a good day at school. Knowing he cannot go home to his father's definite fury, he leaves school in a daze heading straight out of townon foot. Eleven hours later, Rob is curled up in a doorway on a main street far from anything familiar. Upon returning home, Rob's life is forever changed. Sarah and Rob are two of six characters giving readers their very own interpretive insight into the scandal. Formatted as personal entries, Koss' book allows teenage readers to unfold the story as each character reveals the progress of the situation in a different light. The issue of cheating is one of character and integrityand one that every teenager has faced. This book is sure to resonate with today's teens. 2003, Dial Books, 176 pp., Ages young adult.
This novel's structure is strong because the students tell varying stories, which is realistic. Readers must determine the truth for themselves. The characters are stereotypical-beauty queen, nerd, macho guy-and their voices grate because of unrealistic slang or artificial phrasing. Their comments become redundant, leading the reader to wish that adults, especially the teachers, had spoken. Younger girls might like the story, but it is easier to put down than continue reading. Overall, it is not very engaging. VOYA Codes: 2Q 3P M (Better editing or work by the author might have warranted a 3Q; Will appeal with pushing; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8). 2003, Dial, 144p,
Amanda Zalud, Teen Reviewer
Written in diary entry form, this work loses something right at the beginning. Unless the author's intent is to have readers flipping back trying to figure out who has done what, this is a very confusing and distracting read. Neither cheaters nor cheating ever prosper in the long run, and this is a sometimes-painful account of the lives of six eighth graders during the weekend post-geography midterm. Cheating is bad enough, but getting caught cheating is life changing, as we see in the chapters for each person, from one who almost cheated but didn't, to one who is on the verge of suicide for fear of his father. Whether this scenario is a reality for many young adult readers or not, it takes a bit of stamina to get through this book, and then to find out the cheater becomes somewhat of a hero after the four day suspension from school. Those with short attention spans may be attracted to this adolescent novel, but eager-readers should pass on this mediocre tale. 2003, Dial Books,
Gr 6-8-Koss explores the ramifications of a school cheating scandal through the eyes of six students, who are involved in varying degrees. Some (Sarah, Dan, and Rob) cheat on their eighth-grade geography midterm and are caught outright. One (Katie) realizes that the answers she has been given couldn't possibly be correct, so she doesn't use them. Two (Jake and Ruby) are affected in more peripheral ways. In short, spare chapters, the narration bounces back and forth among the teens, and this device is confusing at times. As readers learn more about the characters' lives, the typical problems come to light-divorce, overbearing parents, etc. However, though the individual stories are not particularly unique or compelling, The Cheat does provide an excellent springboard to provocative discussion or debate about the moral and ethical questions that this issue raises.-Ronni Krasnow, New York Public Library Copyright 2003 Cahners Business Information.
Interlocking stories connect a group of eighth-grade students who get caught cheating on their geography midterm. Using the same narrative technique employed in The Girls, Koss tells this somewhat thinner tale in a medley of first-person voices. Sarah, a pretty, popular eighth grader, accepts the answers to last year's geography midterm from Jake, a smart kid "with a cool factor of zero" as casually as she would have taken "a stick of gum." But the situation has unintended consequences when Sarah and two friends she shared the answers with are sent home for cheating. Sadly, these rudderless adolescents have to cope alone as their parents are seen as being either self-centered, morally corrupt, or physically violent. What's intriguing and distressing about the piece is that while all the kids feel bad that they were caught-"Cheating is confusing, but getting caught is crystal clear"-there is no ethical consensus on cheating itself. Instead, the focus shifts to the morality of ratting out friends. And at the end of the story, Sarah, who refuses to tattle, and Jake, who finally confesses to the principal with the understanding that Sarah and the kids who rallied around her won't be punished, come out as heroes. Although provocative and disturbing, the characters lack richness and their stories don't build on each other to create a deeper whole, which is a shame because this contemporary, relevant topic is one that should invite discussion both in and out of the classroom. (Fiction. 10-14)