Sunday, July 15, 2012

Book Review: The Classroom by Robin Mellom

The Classroom by Robin Mellom
Release Date: June 19, 2012
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Pages: 288
Received: ARC from publisher, via NetGalley
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars


From Goodreads:

In 2012, a documentary crew descended upon Westside Middle School to detail the life of an average seventh grader and his classmates.
What they uncovered, though, was far from average. Mostly, it was upper average along with moments of extreme average, highlighted by several minutes of total epicness.
This is the story...

Trevor Jones--perfect attendance award recipient, former neurotic (he hopes)--has been preparing for the start of seventh grade his entire summer.But he is NOT ready for the news his best friend, Libby (proud neurotic, in a color-coding sort of way), drops on him: he must ask a girl to the fall dance. By the end of the day.
Trevor decides he would rather squirt hot sauce in his eyes than attend the dance. Everything changes when he meets mysterious new student Molly (excessive doodler, champion of unnatural hair colors). Trevor starts to think that going to the dance maybe wouldn't be the worst thing ever. But what if she says no to his invitation? More important, what if she says yes?!


Who is this book for?

The Classroom is one of those MG books that can be enjoyed by older readers, just so long as they expect something light and quick. This isn't a book with poignant, deep messages or complex subjects that make you think. This also isn't a book to swoon over.

But, seriously, why would you expect that from a book with the subtitle "The Epic Documentary of a Not-Yet-Epic Kid"?? You shouldn't. You should expect light fun, tongue-in-cheek humor, and an easy to like but totally face-palm-inducing (in a good way) main character. Because that's exactly what you'll get.

Where The Classroom will really shine is with the target audience (MG kids, especially those entering middle school). Trevor's worries and humorous navigation of the intimidating new middle school will resonate with both boys and girls. I especially loved watching Trevor try to transform himself into someone cool, only to continually fall back to the activities he enjoys (the scenes with the janitor were priceless!).

The documentary

The whole book is written in the third person and mostly follows Trevor, but chapters are interrupted with short "interviews" with each of the characters and whoever it is making the documentary. The documentary creator (s?) don't speak. They ask an off-screen question and then you read the answer of the character being interviewed.

I'm not really sure why this book is written as a documentary. The people making this mysterious documentary are unnamed and never even speak. Also, I don't really understand why anyone would be making a documentary and following Trevor of all people. None of this is explained.

It came off a little gimmicky and didn't serve much of a purpose, but I don't think it detracted from the book either. I liked how the short interviews broke up the narrative though. It helped make for a fast, easy read. I also liked the character illustrations.

Bottom line

I enjoyed Robin Mellom's YA debut Ditched and was hoping The Classroom would be equally funny in that groan-inducing way, and it was. I think the documentary style created some distance for me because I didn't feel a strong connection with any of the characters, but it's not a big deal. I still laughed along with Trevor's embarrassing misfortunes and sympathized with his MG-level interpersonal dramas.

This is one of those books that didn't make a strong impact on me, but I enjoyed the time I spent reading it. Robin Mellom has proven herself an author I can definitely go to if I'm looking to read something light, quick, and funny. I'm looking forward to seeing what she'll write next.

This is a standalone.

Explanation of rating system: Star Rating Key 

Do you have any questions about The Classroom that I haven't addressed?
Feel free to ask in the comments!

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  1. I think I would really like the documentary format as I love epistolary novels: letters, emails, texts, notes, etc. combining to make one story appeal to me so much! Wish this had been a better read for you-hopefully the next will be better.

    1. It's not a full epistolary novel, but I think you might appreciate the documentary parts. It's not that this was a bad read, it was a solid "good."

  2. This seems really cute! Definitely something I would have read while in middle school. (:

  3. Aw, cute. I really would like to read more light and easy MG reads. They're nice to pepper in between heavier reads, I find. I probably wouldn't be too much of a fan of the documentary style for this one either though. It reminds me of those sitcoms that are told in mockumentary fashion (The Office, Parks and Recreation, and Modern Family) and how silly they are when you really think about how they are filmed. Like, who really cares about what these random people have to say and what's going on in their lives? Obviously, TV show watchers do. But out of the context of a sitcom, it's not a very good idea for a real documentary.

  4. Sweet. Liking it. Middle school reads are fun, aren't they?


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