Teens do foolish things on impulse or because of peer pressure. But sometimes they can overstep the boundaries of decency and morality, and sometimes they can't explain their actions. Unfortunately, the adults who are charged with their care can also stumble, afraid for their jobs or reputations or of asking for help.
Testimony examines how the drunken actions of a group of teens had far-reaching consequences for the kids involved and for their school, their families, their friends, and even their teachers. Who is to blame for the scandal and its escalation? In part to answer this question, university researchers contacted the many people involved with the incident to record their stories and reactions on the second anniversary of the event.
When Avery Academy's headmaster Mike Bordwin views a tape that shows three senior male students having sexual relations with a freshman girl, he thinks that he can handle everything on his own by getting the boys and girl to tell their stories and then expelling the young men. Of course, the story gets out, and soon the world knows of the scandal.
What really happened and what actions could or should Bordwin have taken to protect his students? When faced with a sex scandal involving teens are the options really clear-cut? As each of the twenty or so individuals tells his or her version of the event and what led up to it, Shreve shows us that there are no easy answers and no single way to view or explain a person's behavior.
I should say right now that I listened to this book rather than read it. The audio production involved a full cast, so each character was given a distinct voice. Each narrator did a believable job, and the inflections and vocal expressions of everyone from the teens to the parents to the teachers were spot-on. I am sure that my engagement in the story was greatly enhanced by the audio experience.
This is a difficult review to write without giving away spoilers. I cannot discuss specific topics and events or reflect on the behaviors and attitudes of individual characters without ruining the novel. If you are hesitant to read Testimony because of the multiple points of view, don't be. Shreve has organized the book in such a way that the changes in voice and time are easy to follow. If nothing else, this novel will make you think, and you will want to talk about it. This would make an excellent book club selection.
Published by Little, Brown, 2008
Challenges: Support Your Library, 100+, 999