Former educator Wolf pens a debut adult novel (Camp, 2012) about an American high school where bullying and intolerance seem to be the rule rather than the exception.
High school guidance counselor Beth Maller’s world is turned inside out on a wintry evening when her son, Danny, dies in a car crash on an icy road. Returning to work three weeks later, Beth does her best to rein in her grief and perform her day-to-day duties with little emotional support from school administrators or her husband, Joe. While a small group of teachers and her father try to provide comfort, Beth increasingly turns to a student’s grandmother for encouragement and understanding. She blames her husband for allowing her son to drive that night and is wracked by guilt because she did nothing to stop him. As these feelings spill over into her professional life, Beth becomes frustrated with an insensitive and rigid administration that prefers to adhere to rules at all costs, even if by doing so, a student’s welfare might be endangered. She struggles to cope with the realization that, contrary to traditional beliefs, good guys don’t always triumph, and integrity is not valued by everyone. When colleagues excuse incidents of bullying and intolerance by sweeping them under the rug, and a group of mean girls threaten a fragile student and even Beth herself, Beth decides to take action. And while the author presents Meadow Brook High as an improbably teeming mass of bullies of all shapes, sizes and ages, she makes a valid point: Abuse of power can occur at any level, can take many forms and can harm numerous people, as it certainly does in this brutally honest, no-holds-barred narrative that, in addition to illustrating this point, expertly blends the account of Beth’s personal loss into the story.
Wolf writes with insight and authority about an issue that society cannot afford to ignore as she points out that, even though many schools have implemented effective programs to deal with bullying and intolerance, recent cases serve as proof that institutions like Meadow Brook High do, indeed, exist and that more needs to be done.