07 September 2009

Review: Testimony by Anita Shreve

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
ISBN-13: 9780316059862
Challenges: Support Your Library, 100+, 999
YTD: 67
Rating: A


Hazra 9/7/09, 6:49 AM  

Can you tell me about any of her other books? I think I read one of her books, but I'm not really sure which one.

And by the way, congrats on your BBAW nomination!

Beth F 9/7/09, 7:01 AM  

Hazra: Shreve has written quite a few novels. Here a link to a list: Shreve's novels.

Julie P. 9/7/09, 8:15 AM  

I love Anita Shreve and I really enjoyed TESTIMONY. I saw that a lot of the reviews were mixed, but I thought it was an extremely thought-provoking novel. I agree about it being a great book club discussion book.

Sandy Nawrot 9/7/09, 8:16 AM  

I found this audio to be one of the better ones I've heard, not that it makes the topic any easier to sit through. The experience was an emotional roller coaster ride, for sure.

Alea 9/7/09, 8:34 AM  

Oh wow, hearing the different characters on the audio book must have been something special!

Margot at Joyfully Retired 9/7/09, 9:16 AM  

I know you are a big fan of audiobooks but this is THE one I really want to listen to. It reminds me of the old radio dramas we used to listen to.

Unknown 9/7/09, 9:51 AM  

I'm pleased to hear that you enjoyed this book. I loved listening to it. I haven't read any of her other books, but am tempted to after this one!

Nise' 9/7/09, 10:55 AM  

I listened to this one as well and liked how each character was read by different readers.

Serena 9/7/09, 1:43 PM  

I really enjoyed reading this book even with the multiple points of view. I think Shreve does an excellent job with that.

bermudaonion 9/7/09, 3:39 PM  

I really liked this book too. It made me think about how far reaching the consequences of one foolish action can be.

Melody 9/7/09, 8:09 PM  

I've not read anything by this author so I'll have to check out this book. Thanks for the great review!

Literary Feline 9/7/09, 9:09 PM  

I am glad you enjoyed listening to this one, Beth. It's definitely one I have been hoping to read. Thanks for the great review!

Just Mom 9/7/09, 10:53 PM  

Glad to hear this was a good one - that what I was hoping for!

Anna 9/8/09, 1:01 PM  

I'm reading this one now, and I'm liking it for the most part. It's not my favorite of Shreve's novels, but I think she handles the multiple viewpoints well. Thanks for the review.

Diary of an Eccentric

Jenners 9/8/09, 8:35 PM  

I read this and I'm thinking the audio book with different voices might be more effective than reading it. I was a bit disappointed in the book ... it wasn't a favorite but it wasn't too bad either.

KyleeJ 9/9/09, 2:10 PM  

Definitely a good book club selection! I'm waiting for my mom to read it so that she and I can discuss. =)

S. Krishna 9/9/09, 5:31 PM  

I completely agree this would make a great book club selection - I remember wanting to discuss it after I finished it.

Nicole (Linus's Blanket) 9/10/09, 5:53 AM  

I remember reading and enjoying. It really only takes a split second for something to change/ ruin your life.

Anonymous,  9/13/09, 2:32 PM  

I won this book in a contest and can't wait to get to it!

Anonymous,  10/1/09, 4:13 PM  

I finished listening to this yesterday and agree it was well-done with a full cast. I've read or listened to seven of Shreve's books. Some can be predictable, some good. This one the latter.

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