On My Bookshelf: Testimony by Anita Shreve

August 15, 2016

In Testimony by Anita Shreve, after one night of bad decisions, things are never the same at Avery Academy, a private school in New England. The incident cannot be contained and as a result, students are expelled, relationships and marriages are ruined, and choices are made that can never be undone. Read on for more of my review and ideas for classroom application.
The basic plot from Amazon: At a New England boarding school, a sex scandal is about to break. Even more shocking than the sexual acts themselves is the fact that they were caught on videotape. A Pandora's box of revelations, the tape triggers a chorus of voices--those of the men, women, teenagers, and parents involved in the scandal--that details the ways in which lives can be derailed or destroyed in one foolish moment.

Writing with a pace and intensity surpassing even her own greatest work, Anita Shreve delivers in Testimony a gripping emotional drama with the impact of a thriller. No one more compellingly explores the dark impulses that sway the lives of seeming innocents, the needs and fears that drive ordinary men and women into intolerable dilemmas, and the ways in which our best intentions can lead to our worst transgressions.

Why I liked it: After several students tape a night of sexual debauchery, things are never the same at Avery Academy, a private school in New England. The head master discovers the tape and tries, unsuccessfully, to contain the incident. As a result, students are expelled, relationships and marriages are ruined, and choices are made that can never be undone. Besides the students involved and the head master, the novel is narrated by a variety of characters including Avery teachers and students, other staff members, parents, and townspeople and weaves incidents from the past and present as a researcher conducts a study in alcohol and adolescent boys.
In Testimony by Anita Shreve, after one night of bad decisions, things are never the same at Avery Academy, a private school in New England. The incident cannot be contained and as a result, students are expelled, relationships and marriages are ruined, and choices are made that can never be undone. Read on for more of my review and ideas for classroom application.

Because of the weaving of past and present events from the perspective of multiple characters, the plot of Testimony builds in intensity as the terrible things you hope won't happen mostly do. While some of the characters annoyed me at times, especially one love sick teenager, I found it impossible not to be drawn into the drama.

Classroom application: The novel begins with a very graphic description of the students' sex tape, so this may not be appropriate for your classroom, even for the oldest of students. That said, the novel would be a fascinating topic of discussion in a psychology or sociology class and would connect to many real world topics.

If you are interested in purchasing a copy of Testimony for yourself, you can find it on Amazon here.

For more reading suggestions for students and teachers:



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