Book Review: Draw the Line by Laurent Linn
I have book buddies on twitter who I follow and notice what they read, and sometimes I ask them to recommend books. I find my book friends when favorite authors retweet them or respond to them. My love and appreciation for Andrew Smith and A.S. King generated many of these online book friendships. Also, I now follow Read Diverse Books and We Need Diverse Books thanks to twitter friend recommendations and retweets. So I asked one of my twitter bookish friends to recommend some diverse YA books–what were the best books he’d read in 2016. I decided after diversifying my bookshelf last year (based on a twitter teacher I follow) I needed to diversify my own reading habits and challenge myself. This is how I ended up with Laurent Linn’s Draw the Line.
As I read this book, I was sucked in to the story. It was Friday night and my husband asked if I wanted to watch a movie when I was halfway through–I gave him my “I’m in the middle of a really important scene look” and continued to read (just a note, I’m lucky my husband appreciates and respects my reading. I’ve been in relationships where the significant other doesn’t think reading is important or worth time. If you’re a booknerd and you’re with someone like that, you should know there are people out there who respect reading). Anyway, I read this book all in one sitting and I enjoyed it for a number of reason (and then I did sit down and watch a show with my husband–check out the new NBC show Emerald City…good diversity in that cast).
MILD SPOILERS FOLLOW
First, as a teacher, Draw the Line reminded me how dangerous schools can be for many students. There were points in the book where teachers came out of the classroom to the hallway just a minute too late, or where there were no teachers to be found anywhere. It reminded me I should be more present in the halls, cafeteria, and school events in general. While it is often easier to just stay in my classroom, which is a safe space, I need to brave the crowds to provide adult supervision for students who may not feel safe at school.
So the book’s premise is this: Adrian Piper, an artist, has an anonymous blog where he posts the pictures he draws of Graphite, his imagined alter ego. He also draws his friends and his enemies, and after a hate crime against a gay student, he draws the truth of what happened. Adrian changes after the event–the police gaslight him, his friends either caution him to lay low or go to the authorities who won’t do anything. In other words, he’s conflicted. One thing he’s not conflicted about, however, is his attraction to men, one in particular, who is in his French class. However, his school doesn’t have a GSA, there’s only one out gay male (who just got publically beat), and he doesn’t think his small football-obsessed Texas town would be receptive to him coming out.
Needless to say, this is a coming of age novel. Adrian follows the traditional hero quest path in many ways, and also fulfills the elements of a bildungsroman narrative. I enjoyed the drawings and sketches peppered throughout the text. I also appreciated that while the ending was positive, that not everything at the end was wrapped up tightly with a bow–some things were left unfinished, and that felt real to me. However, what I liked most about this story was the power of the individual. I’m always telling my students if they don’t like something, they need to do something to change it. There’s a Margaret Mead quote that sort of sums up the power of small deeds that I think this novel shows on an individual level, “never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”