A MATTER OF PRINCIPLE by Susan Beth Pfeffer


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A good, clean fight--not only on a matter of principle but also in terms of morality and rights. Narrator Becca and a group of her fellow juniors at typically structured, stuffy Southfield High quit the school paper in protest at advisor Miss Holdstein's interference, and put out an underground sheet dubbed the Southfield Shaft. Its most explosive feature: a cartoon of Miss H. ""in a probably impossible sexual act with a bear,"" principal Mr. Malloy. When the Shaft is sold (ill-advisedly, on school grounds), Mr. Malloy dresses down the kids, Becca talks back, and they're suspended--indefinitely, unless they apologize. Becca's lawyer father unenthusiastically takes on the case. Other parents, though even less enthusiastic, join in. An attempt to get an injunction fails; there'll be a wait for a hearing, the kids will have to go to private school meanwhile. The pressure mounts. One girl, the least involved, capitulates. Others are torn. The unstructured private school is disorienting; only one of the youngsters fits in. Becca's love, Kenny, makes his amends: his divorced mother can't afford the tuition, he can't afford (disgraced) to lose his job. Becca lashes out at him, and loses him. Her best friend Melissa, trading on her parents' dissension, first holds out and then caves in. Becca has no compassion for her either. But Paul, the hotshot among them, tells her that he admires her backbone; her preoccupied college-teacher mother apologizes for withholding reassurances, and even praises the writing in the Shaft. The kids do win the case--Becca expressing her regrets at hurting Miss Holdstein. And with dread and bravado, they return to Southfield High. It may never be the same; but, says Becca to congratulations: ""I'm glad to be back."" Each of the characters, child or adult, is a forceful presence--and their torments aren't fudged.

Pub Date: April 29th, 1982
Publisher: Delacorte