Pamela D. Pollack

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 260

Despite her obvious attempt to speak for contemporary young people in her newest novel [The Rotten Years] Maia Wojciechowska succeeds only in tediously preaching at them. The barest essentials of characterization and plot are summarily disposed of in the first two chapters which introduce the protagonists: 14-year-old Denise Brown, whose "rotten years" (here arbitrarily defined as ages 12 through 15) are further complicated by her paranoid, Agnew-spouting, fanatically religious mother; and Elsie Jones, the "resident subversive" high school history teacher at Mark Twain Junior High School…. The bulk of the book is devoted to the activities of Mrs. Jones' experimental class set up to mobilize her students for a children's crusade against American "moral depression."… Denise Brown is scarcely mentioned after the opening pages but the italicized paragraphs which precede chapters are apparently passages from her diary. From these we learn of her growing rebellion against her mother; in the final entry which concludes the book she discusses the arson/death of Mrs. Jones at the hands of her now totally insane mother. Elsie Jones is clearly the vehicle for the author's beliefs and very obtrusive biases, and the rest—a militant mother who wants only black studies taught; foster parents whose charges "[mean] no more than a monthly check"; etc.—are clay pigeons set up to be shot down.

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Pamela D. Pollack, in her review of "The Rotten Years," in School Library Journal, an appendix to Library Journal (reprinted from the November, 1971 issue of School Library Journal, published by R. R. Bowker Co./A Xerox Corporation; copyright © 1971), Vol. 18, No. 3, November, 1971, p. 127.

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John W. Conner