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Crushed    by Laura McNeal & Tom McNeal order for
by Laura McNeal
Order:  USA  Can
Knopf, 2006 (2006)
* *   Reviewed by J. A. Kaszuba Locke

Audrey Reed, Lea Woolcott, and C.C. Mudd transferred to Jemison High, after passing grades six through ten at Agatha Ingram Tate School, a one-room private school. Another new student, Wickham Hill, is immediately noticed by Audrey (the central character in this daunting story). C.C.'s brother Brian already attends Jemison in a higher grade, is humorous, lighthearted, but has a deep secret of his own. Then, there is the group of thugs who hang out unsupervised in the hallways under the leadership of Theo Driggs. He threatens many on his 'to do list', including Audrey.

Each character has a different home environment. Audrey's dad lost his job, and has been struggling with finances. They move into an apartment. Lea and C.C. have wealthy backgrounds, but support Audrey in her tough times ... until Lea deceives and betrays her. Shy Clyde Mumsford has an eye on Audrey, but can't get words out to talk with her. His mom is in stage four of cancer, taken care of at home, while dad works the night shift, and during the day does computer work for his company at home. Clyde cares for his mother when dad is at work, with help from a hospice representative. Wickham's dad and mom are divorced, and his dad is cutting back their financial support.

Within the confines of Jemison High, someone is writing and distributing The Yellow Paper, which contains destructive stories about Jemison's teachers and students. School principal Mrs. Pardoo says of the tabloid: 'First of all, it needs to be said that what is written anonymously is written by cowards ... when the persons responsible for this paper are apprehended… that person will be removed from school and turned over to authorities for legal prosecution.' The authors write about secrets: 'People's secrets can be what makes them interesting. They can also be what makes them awful.'

The story doesn't seem like much in the beginning. However, the McNeals soon capture the reality of what might happen as secrets are withheld, or revealed. There are shattered hearts following deception, threats to well-being, and dishonest representation. The authors subtly show that once a secret is revealed, or a mystery solved, one cannot go back to 'the way things were'. I recommend Crushed as a sensitive, soul-searching read. And, I like the name of the store where Audrey shops: Veni, Vidi, Emi ('I came, I saw, I purchased')!

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