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THE CHEAT by Amy Goldman Koss


by Amy Goldman Koss

Age Range: 10 - 14

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 2003
ISBN: 0-8037-2794-1
Publisher: Dial

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)