Zero Tolerance

240p. Farrar/Margaret Ferguson. June 2013. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-0-374-33312-6. LC 2012017851.
Gr 6–8—As a member of the Leadership Club and an honor student at Longwood Middle School, Sierra Shepard helped create the banner announcing its creed: "Rules Respect Responsibility Reliability." The school has established an ironclad zero-tolerance policy on weapons, but when Sierra accidentally takes her mother's lunch bag to school, she finds it contains a paring knife. A loyal rule-follower, the seventh grader turns the knife in to the office, assuming that her spotless record will exempt her from the consequences of breaking a rule. That is not the case. Sierra begins a weeklong in-school suspension during which she questions her assumptions about following rules, her classmates, her parents, and school administrators. Sierra also reexamines her feelings about Luke Bishop, the school "bad boy" who is more complex and interesting than she thought. Sierra is a realistic and appealing character whose experiences will resonate with readers who enjoy stories about school and friends. This compelling novel could also spark a discussion about the slippery nature of rules and how they are enforced. Unlike Mills's novels for younger readers, Zero Tolerance includes mild swear words scattered throughout, but they seem genuine for the age of the characters.—Shelley Sommer, Inly School, Scituate, MA

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