Paper Covers Rock

Paper Covers Rock

by Jenny Hubbard


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William C. Morris Debut Award Finalist

"One of the best young adult books I've read in years."—Pat Conroy

At the beginning of his junior year at a boys' boarding school, 16-year-old Alex is devastated when he fails to save a drowning friend. When questioned, Alex and his friend Glenn, who was also at the river, begin weaving their web of lies. Plagued by guilt, Alex takes refuge in the library, telling his tale in a journal he hides behind Moby-Dick. Caught in the web with Alex and Glenn is their English teacher, Miss Dovecott, fresh out of Princeton, who suspects there's more to what happened at the river when she perceives guilt in Alex's writing for class. She also sees poetic talent in Alex, which she encourages. As Alex responds to her attention, he discovers his true voice, one that goes against the boarding school bravado that Glenn embraces. When Glenn becomes convinced that Miss Dovecott is out to get them, Alex must choose between them.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780385740555
Publisher: Random House Children's Books
Publication date: 06/14/2011
Pages: 192
Product dimensions: 5.70(w) x 8.30(h) x 0.80(d)
Lexile: 920L (what's this?)
Age Range: 14 - 17 Years

About the Author

Michael L. Printz Honor Award-winning And We Stay is Jenny Hubbard’s second novel. Her first, Paper Covers Rock, was a William C. Morris Debut Award Finalist. A former English teacher, Jenny writes books and plays in her hometown of Slisbury, North Carolina, where she lives with her husband, a high school math teacher, and their rescue dog, Oliver. You can find Jenny on Facebook, follow her (and Oliver) on Twitter at @HubbardWrites, and visit her website at

Read an Excerpt

Call me Is Male.

When my dad gave me this journal two years ago and said "Fill it with your impressions," I imagine he had a more idyllic portrait of boarding school life in mind. I imagine he pictured a lot of bright things, sending his only child to an institution whose official motto is Ad Lux. But these pages have remained blank. I have not had much to say until now—when now is everything.

If you are reading this, you have happened upon it by accident. Call me Is Male.

My apologies to Herman Melville, from whom I may have to steal a few words to tell the story that is about to be told, that is in the middle of being told, that will never stop being told. Such is the nature of guilt; such is the nature of truth. But it is the nature of guilt to sideline the truth.

Welcome to the sidelines, Dear Reader.

If you get bored with my literary efforts, with the plot or characters, if you find that good ol' Is Male is putting you to sleep, read a real novel, a Great American one. Read Moby-Dick. Read to your heart's content. Though if you are a reader, the heart is never content.

Newspapers may tell you the plot, but they never tell you the real story. And they never, ever tell you what started the whole thing to begin with. But when the end is death, maybe what comes before doesn't matter. What happens on September 30 is still going to happen.

So, what happens?

1. The bell rings at exactly 11:45. I have been waiting for this bell. I own a watch just so I can set it to Birch School time, just so I can know exactly when this Saturday bell, the one that dismisses us from six days of classes in a row, will ring. The Birch School, like all boys' boarding schools, is timeless; time drags on forever here, which makes the bell mean something.

2. I leave the classroom for the dining hall and eat lunch. (Not worth elaborating on—sorry boys'-school food.)

3. I go back to my room to change clothes. (We all wear blazers and ties to class.) My room feels depressing at this time of day, when I am normally in class during the week. The carpet looks like it hasn't been changed in twenty years because it probably hasn't, and in the corner near my closet, some other guy who had this room before left cigarette burns that I have never noticed until this moment. My roommate, Clay, hasn't made his bed (typical), and a half-eaten bag of Doritos sags near his pillow.

4. I start down the hill to the river by myself at approximately 12:30, but my friend Thomas catches up with me. We arrive at the designated meeting spot at approximately 12:50. No sign yet of Glenn and Clay, so Thomas asks me a question: "Do you remember what it is that makes the sky blue?" Because on this day, the sky is bluer than it has ever been.

"I think it has something to do with the spectrum of light and the nitrogen in the atmosphere absorbing all of the other colors except blue," I say.

"It's weird to think about living under a green sky, or a red one."

I agree.

Thomas says, "Blue is the right color for it, that's for sure."

I say, "I always thought it was weird to think about how you're under the same exact sky as some kid in China who has no idea that you exist, and you have no idea that he exists, only that there has got to be at least one kid in China looking at the sky right now."

"Isn't it night over there, though?"

"Yeah, but there still has to be some Chinese kid looking at it."

"Maybe he's counting stars," says Thomas. "Did you used to do that?"

I did.

Thomas says, "I wonder why we don't do that anymore."

This is our last real conversation, verbatim. Every conversation you will find in this book I am writing is verbatim. There may be a comma where the speaker intended for there to be a semicolon, but other than that, my journal/Not-So-Great American Novel is entirely accurate. Even though I haven't slept for two nights in a row, what you see scrawled throughout this journal that my dad gave me is real. I am big on verbatim because I am big on truth. Truth: as important and essential as rain.

Death Notice, Raleigh News & Observer, 

October 2, 1982

(copied verbatim, punctuation and all, from the newspaper in the library)

Thomas Edward Broughton, Jr., 17, of Raleigh, died September 30 as the result of a swimming accident in Buncombe County, NC. Thomas, a junior at the Birch School, was a member of the varsity football and track teams and a good friend to all who knew him there. He was born September 21, 1965, in Raleigh, where he was a member of Christ Episcopal Church. He spent the summer volunteering at the Boys Club, an organization for underprivileged youth, while working toward becoming an Eagle Scout. Thomas is survived by his loving parents, Thomas Edward Broughton, Sr., and Grace Banes Broughton, and by his younger brother, Trenton Banes Broughton, all of Raleigh; by his grandmother Lucy Elvington Broughton, also of Raleigh; by his grandparents Mr. and Mrs. Hendricks Folsom Banes of Oxford, Mississippi; and by various aunts and uncles and cousins in Raleigh and elsewhere. A service in celebration of Thomas's life will be held at Christ Episcopal on Friday, October 6, at 11:00 a.m., to be followed by a private burial. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made in Thomas's memory to the Boys Club of Raleigh, P.O. Box 957, Raleigh, NC, 27607.


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Paper Covers Rock 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 18 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is an excellent read that deals with coming of age and the devestating power of guilt. It is haunting and will stay with you long after you finish.
DaisyWhitney More than 1 year ago
This book will stand the test of time. Beautiful, smart and brave, I had the distinct feeling I was in the presence of great art while reading it. This book should stand alongside classics like A Separate Peace and The Chocolate War. Highly recommended.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
An amazing book. You won't forget it for a longlong while.
dablackwood on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is the story of Alex, a prep school junior, who is coming to terms with his part in the death of his friend Thomas. Several boys were drinking some vodka and dared each other to jump from a high rock into the water below. Thomas dove in and hit his head on a submerged rock. He did not survive. The facts of the event are brought out in bits and are mixed in with Alex's crush on his English teacher, homosexuality (not Alex), and Alex's emerging life as a writer. Some of his poems are exquisite and though I think the story is a bit trite, the level is raised so much by Alex's writings - both prose and poetry.This short book would be enjoyed by mature high schoolers and older.
travelwlee on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This was the hardest, and maybe most dishonest, rating I have ever had to give. I agree with all of the other ratings, from 1 star to 5 star. For the first 2/3 of the book, I really did not care for it at all. The last 1/3 was amazing. I think this was a great book for a small audience. I still don't know why the author chose 1982 as the time setting, seemed a bit unsettling. I am also not sure that the voice of the author, 16 year old Alex, was authentic. Think this book may be one of the surprising ones though that will stick with me longer than I imagine.
lilibrarian on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Four boys were drinking a a boarding school, and jumped off a rock into the water. One died. Who knew when he was in trouble? Did someone have a reason not to help. What did the teacher see? And who does Alex owe loyalty to - his friends, his teacher, himself, or the truth?
TigerLMS on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Alex, a gifted poet and writer, struggles with guilt after a friend, Thomas, dies in a swimming accident at their elite prep school in 1982. Thomas, along with Alex and two other boys, had gone to the swimming rock. Drunk from another of the student's vodka, Thomas dove into the water and hit his head on the rock. Moments later Miss Dovecott was on the scene, but isn't sure of what she saw. Glenn, another of the boys at the rock that day, creates a plot to get the very young and very attractive teacher fired before she finds out what happened. Alex himself knows there is more to the story, and struggles between loyalty to the living and living up to the expectations of Miss Dovecott, with whom he is infatuated. Told through the pages of Alex's secret journal, this is a powerful story reminiscent of John Knowles. Students at my high school might not fully understand the boarding school culture that plays an important role here, but will easily connect with the doubts and fears that plague Thomas's mind. The book is set in 1982, but aside from the singular REO Speedwagon or Cold War references, it could just as easily be set today. At 181 pages, this book will fall short of the typical 200-page-minimum English teacher independent reading assignment, which is a shame because it is a wonderful book that goes much deeper than the typical YA offering. Highly recommended.
BooksWithBite More than 1 year ago
I bought this book a while back and finally got time to read it. It began a little slow but once I got more to the meat of the story it grew on me. Plot: This is about a boy, who is in a private all boys school, and a tragic incident has happen. Alex feels let down that he was not on time to save his friend. This plot did move slow in the beginning due to the author giving the reader lots of background information. Once you get more to the middle and more lies and truths began to come out, the story begins to paint a bigger picture of what actually happened. Web Of lies: I didn’t think that guys can lie as well as girls. These guys made lies on top or more lies, they fought and brought other down faster than a quarterback on a Friday night. I mean, really these guys could give mean girls a run for their money. We all knows that lies can only cover for so long and then before you know it, the truth comes out. Ending: I really liked how in the end, all is revealed. The author did a great job leading the reader piece by piece till the very end. This is great book. Not only is it small but it really packs a punch. It’s one of those stories that sticks with the reader even after its finished. I thought about it for days. About the lies and about the truth. Paper Covers Rock is a great read.
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It is now one of my personal favprites
BooksaremypieceofHeaven More than 1 year ago
Beautifully written.
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