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Or Not    by Brian Mandabach order for
Or Not
by Brian Mandabach
Order:  USA  Can
Flux, 2007 (2007)

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* * *   Reviewed by Lyn Seippel

Cassie Sullivan is a quiet, introspective fourteen-year-old. She can't wait to be through with the last boring year of middle school. Driven when it comes to schoolwork, she has the best GPA in school, but refuses to join in the gifted program. She just wants to keep a low profile. As she begins eighth grade, her best friend is her diary.

Early in the school year, Cassie speaks up during a conversation in reading, defending Darwinism. She immediately becomes a pariah in her conservative Colorado school. Students she's known all her life damn her to hell.

To make matters worse, she refuses to sing Proud to be an American which earns her the title, American Taliban Slut. She believes patriotism isn't just singing a rah, rah song and saluting the flag, but in the post 9/11 world her reasoning is considered disrespectful.

Cassie lives for the weekends when she and her parents visit their rustic cabin in the mountains. She loves nature and the freedom she has there. Contrasted with the bullying she is facing at school, she wishes she could find a way to stay there permanently.

At school the harassment get worse and sometimes violent. The school officials ignore what is happening to Cassie as if she deserves the treatment she is getting. Wanting to handle things on her own, Cassie doesn't confide in her parents.

It isn't hard to identify with Cassie's depression and her longing to get through the year. Mandabach's depiction of a dark period in the life of a middle school student is both frightening and realistic.

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