Testimony, by Anita Shreve

Cover ImageFinished 2-19-11, rating 3.5/5, fiction, 305 pages, pub. 2008

It was a small cassette, not much bigger than the palm of his hand, and when Mike thought about the terrible license and risk exhibited on the tape, as well as its resultant destructive power, it was as though the two-by-three plastic package had been radioactive.  Which it may as well have been, since it had produced something very like radiation sickness throughout the school, reducing the value of an Avery education, destroying at least two marriages that he knew of, ruining the futures of three students, and, most horrifying of all, resulting in a death.

first lines of book

There is a video that has hit YouTube and come to the attention of the headmaster of a private school in Vermont.  In it there are three boys and a fourteen year old girl, all students of the school, performing sex acts while drunk.  The headmaster tries to keep it quiet, but that is not going to happen and the media descends on the school to pass judgement.  No one is left unscathed.

The story is told from multiple viewpoints, from the headmaster to the students to small players like the man who sold the kids the alcohol.  Not only were there too many perspectives to keep track of but the timeline jumped around quite a but making it a bit confusing.  I didn’t think it was too confusing, I actually thought it was fresh and interesting for the most part, but for me the story didn’t exactly hold up.  There was a good mix of characters, some sympathetic, some not, which made the story seem real.

It is very timely in the fact that so many kids are using media, like YouTube or Facebook, to put bad behavior on display.  It is an interesting topic, but I wish it had been dealt with a little more depth.  Kids are behaving badly and broadcasting it, some hoping it will get them attention or make them famous (hello, Kim Kardashian) so the fallout from it didn’t seem to fit the crime in my opinion.  I liked the twist at the end. Even though I saw it coming, it was still  powerful and a solid end to this cautionary tale.

I have loved the other Shreve books I’ve read, but this was one was a bit of a disappointment to me.  It actually took me quite awhile to finish it even though it read fairly fast.

This is from my personal library and was chosen by Marce, Alessandra, and Mystica.  Here’s what Alessandra had to say… “A sex scandal at a prestigious boarding school in New England has dire consequences on a whole community.”