Shattering Glass, by Gail Giles. New York: Simon Pulse, 2003. 215 pp. ISBN 0689858000
Young could understand the desire to help another student, but why was Rob so completely obsessed with making Simon popular? Would Rob stop at nothing to accomplish this, and what would the ultimate consequence be?
The narrator of this novel is high school student, Young Steward, pressured by his father to excel in academics and life. He is best friends with Coop, a great athlete, and Bob, a highly sought-after ladies' man, but Young's self-doubt makes him wonder why he himself is popular. One day a new student named Rob, with charisma to spare, appears at school and makes their group of friends a foursome. Witnessing how certain students bully Simon Glass, an awkward and geeky boy, he makes it his mission to make Simon popular. In this task, however, he demands that Simon, Young, Coop, and Bob follow his orders exactly, and feels threatened when any of them takes action of their own volition. Rob thinks nothing of altering the course of Young's romantic and academic life in order to make his plan proceed smoothly. Along the way, the boys find out some information about Rob's past which changes their perception of him and points to why he is so obsessed with exerting control. At a certain point, the boys find out exactly what Rob will do when he feels that he is losing control. The consequence is dramatic and will change all of their lives. But who is responsible?
I think that Young is fairly believable as a character. Being raised by a demanding father, he has been conditioned to please others. Although I was surprised that he gave up a very good relationship with his girlfriend for Rob's seemingly much more momentary whim of transforming Simon, I can also see why Young's feelings of sympathy and loyalty toward Rob -- and Young's strong need to feel needed by friends himself -- might have made him do this. I love the format of the novel, in the way that Giles intersperses the narrative with extended comments made by several of the characters at some point in the future, after Rob's ultimate release of fury and the deed has been done. At the end of the novel found myself wanting to know more about Young's future and his reflections on everything that had transpired. But then I think this is part of the point of the novel, i.e., when you put your trust blindly in someone else, without being sure of their ethics, you run the risk of being left with the pieces. What you do with them after that point is up to you. What some may find controversial in this novel is the violent last scene. It is graphic, but Giles is trying to make a dramatic point.
HOW THIS BOOK HELPS
This book could help teens who are being bullied in the way that Rob bullies Young, Coop, and Bob. It points out the risk one takes when one gives control of one's actions to someone else. It will hopefully encourage teens to extricate themselves from the influence of such friends, and also respect the free will of others.
WHY I CHOSE TO READ IT
The possibility of someone like Simon making such a complete turnaround in behavior sounded very intriguing.