This book reminded me a lot of the Degrassi television series. There are a lot of characters (six main ones) who flow in and out of the story as the different plot lines come to the fore and then recede. Some of the story elements of your typical YA novel are present: love triangles, rivalries, pregnancy, substance abuse, sports stories. Then there are some more substantial issues: racial stereotyping, class difference, the meaning of the first amendment. The author has a unique way of inserting these bigger concerns into the everyday world of your typical adolescent-and it works. Mill River is very much a par of the real world, past and present. Among others, Paul Robeson, Carl Lewis and JFK are mentioned. I could see Mill River being used as a supplement to classroom material.
The main plot is whether the financially strapped Mill River school district can keep its high school open or whether it will have to merge with hated rival Morningside Glen. The six main characters, Rhett, Champ, Holly, Mousey, Jack, and Cy are confronted with problems, and in resolving them, they unknowingly nudge the school in the desired direction. By the time I got to the last third of Mill River, I could not put it down as I wanted to see how things would play out.
A very enjoyable read. I would recommend it to adults as well as young people
Amazon.com Book Review submitted by a reader.
The underclassmen will go to their hated rival the following year
Mill River Senior High, located in an economically depressed area, is going to be closed after the conclusion of the school year. The underclassmen will go to their hated rival the following year. There are some of the typical characters in a YA novel: the jock, the smart kid, the preppy girl, the Vo-tech kid. The jock is white, the smart kid Black. A nice touch. Unlike your typical YA novel, there are a LOT of characters. However, unlike any fiction work I’ve seen, the author, to help you keep track, has an index of all the characters with a brief description of them and the chapters in which they appear.
There is not as much depth in the characters as one might expect. But that is the point: this is a story of the little town of Mill River and its high school battling overwhelming odds to stay afloat. The school is really the main character of the book. It is what we use to call a heroic tale. Given the current situation of the country, a book about a small, diverse community working together for the common good is a refreshing change.
There are many subplots woven around the main story line: Champ’s rejection of his father, Holly and her perfect image being tempted by a suave foreign, exchange student, Jack’s struggle just to stay above water in life, Mousey balancing her interests of science and basketball. There are subtle turns, a great deal of foreshadowing, and the author never fails to give the reader a twist at a climatic event. If you like that type of book, you’ll love Mill River Senior High. If you’re looking for something to blow through quickly, best to look elsewhere.
One final thing, when does this story take place? The events in the story could have taken place in any high school at any time, because many of the experiences of adolescence are so universal to us all. At the same time, the author drops subtle clues that pins it down to the early 2000’s. For me, I enjoyed the timeless aspect. I have been out of high school many years and I thoroughly enjoyed going back again with the Mill River kids.
Amazon.com Book Review submitted by a reader.
Full of interesting characters, pride and a story line you can root for.
When I first read the description I thought this book would be about kids having to adjust to a new school after learning theirs had to close. Instead it’s about how the kids adjust over the course of the last year the school is supposed to be open knowing for everyone but the seniors they have to transfer to a different school the following year. It’s not just any school, it’s their biggest rival, and the hatred is so intense between the two groups of students images from West Side Story started playing in my head.
Starting in August before school begins, each chapter focuses on a different time throughout the school year as John Rubisch did a Breakfast Club type of story examining the students who were impacted by growing up in Mill River, how the decision to close the school impacted them and where they ended up in the future after graduation. I thought the Epilogue where he provided a quick synopsis of their futures was sweet and made for a satisfying conclusion.
At times the story felt rushed and like we were only getting quick snapshots of what was happening in the lives of certain character even if it was a major event such as the death of a loved but that seemed to be the point as Rubisch was trying to squeeze an entire year of a community into one book. Considering his overall plot I could actually see this easily being turned into a series where each book focused on one month but it probably would not have had the same emotional impact since you get the entire story at once.
Aside from the understandably fast pace I really liked that Rubisch still managed to provide excellent character development as I felt myself caring what was going to happen to these kids, this community. I wanted to support Cy’s antics, throw my own cherry pie in the face of those evil twins, root on Mousey as she fought hard on the basketball court, hug Jack and tell him he can push through his struggles and be an avid reader of everything Holly wrote. There were so many others you couldn’t help but fall for and hope nothing but the best for them.
Rubisch’s writing style is wonderful as he creates the perfect microcosm of humanity and shows us the cause and effect of choices as well as how to face adversity head on. I have to admit I even got teary eyed when Cy gave his speech at the end and would’ve been right there along with everyone else cheering him on.
Although this was definitely in some ways a prototypical YA book, there was something about it that made it much classier and full of more heart than you would expect for this genre.