- Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
- Publication date: 6/18/2013
- Source: ARC provided by the publisher for review
Seventh-grader Sierra Shepard has always been the perfect student, so when she sees that she accidentally brought her mother's lunch bag to school, including a paring knife, she immediately turns in the knife at the school office. Much to her surprise, her beloved principal places her in in-school suspension and sets a hearing for her expulsion, citing the school's ironclad no weapons policy. While there, Sierra spends time with Luke, a boy who's known as a troublemaker, and discovers that he's not the person she assumed he would be--and that the lines between good and bad aren't as clear as she once thought. Claudia Mills brings another compelling school story to life with Zero Tolerance.
The synopsis of this story intrigued me. I understand the seriousness of the issue at hand, but it seemed a little excessive to me to think that this student who has never done anything wrong, and even turns in the knife when she realized the mistake, should face expulsion. Not to worry though, the way that this book is done it makes sense. With a zero tolerance policy in the school, it doesn't matter if it was an accident or even that she turned it in. The fact that she brought it to school was enough. I found myself angry at the situation and hoping that everything got resolved for her.
Sierra is a good kid. She doesn't get into trouble, she gets good grades, and she helps the school with new initiatives to try to make the school and education better. She is the last person who would ever break a rule. In fact, she turns the knife in as soon as she notices she has her mom's lunch and not her own thinking it's the right thing to do. When they call her parents and start treating her coldly, she is confused. She doesn't understand how she can be in trouble for trying to do the right thing. Media gets involved and it becomes big news. She actually takes it all pretty well. At first I thought that maybe for a 12 year old she seemed a bit mature, but as I learned about her it made sense. She has a good head on her shoulders. As much as her situation sucked, I loved the things that she learned through the experience. She grew as a person and learned to not be so narrow minded about everything.
Sierra's father is a lawyer and he has connections so he is able to make the situation get media coverage. Sierra talks to reporters, ends up on the news, and has a bunch of support behind her. Not that any of that makes a difference to the principal at all. He needs to stick to the policies in place and there are no exceptions. While all of this goes on and Sierra is stuck in suspension, she actually becomes friends with the last person she thought she ever would. Luke is a major trouble maker, but she discovers that he's not all bad, and he is even willing to help her. I can't say that I agree with some of the ways her dad went about getting things resolved, but I do think that Sierra learned a great lesson out of it all.
This was a great book. I was invested in Sierra's story and needed to know the outcome. There were some great secondary characters too, and I think they really helped to round out the story and make Sierra the person she was. I wish we had been able to get to know her personally a little better, but the pending expulsion really kept us from getting to know too much about her outside of that situation. I felt like we got to know Luke and her family more than we got to know her. I liked the little glimpse that we did get though. Overall I really did like this though. I think that it had some good messages in it. Some subtle, some more obvious, but all really great!
* An advanced copy of this book was provided by the publisher for an honest review. I did not receive any compensation.