Since I had picked up Jen Bryant’s Trial at the same time, I decided to follow it up with her other courtroom-drama-verse-novel, Ringside, 1925. This was Bryant’s treatment of the Scopes trial in Tennessee over the teaching of evolution.
Ringside, 1925: Views from the Scopes Trial by Jen Bryant
Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2008
Courtesy of Amazon.com:
“The colorful facts she retrieves, the personal story lines and the deft rhythm of the narrative are more than enough invitation to readers to ponder the issues she raises.
The year is 1925, and the students of Dayton, Tennessee, are ready for a summer of fishing, swimming, some working, and drinking root beer floats at Robinson’s Drugstore. But when their science teacher, J. T. Scopes, is arrested for having taught Darwin’s theory of evolution in class, it seems it won’t be just any ordinary summer in Dayton.
As Scopes’ trial proceeds, the small town is faced with astonishing, nationwide publicity: reporters, lawyers, scientists, religious leaders, and tourists. But amidst the circus-like atmosphere is a threatening sense of tension–not only in the courtroom, but among even the strongest of friends. This compelling novel in poems chronicles a controversy with a profound impact on science and culture in America–and one that continues to this day.
Strengths: This one had more meat to it than The Trial. It felt like Bryant fleshed this one out more. There is a wide range of characters whose perspectives Bryant uses to tell the story, which I liked, as well as using different verse styles to create a unique voice for each character.
Potential Flaws: I still can’t help but think verse novels are somehow easier to write. I kept thinking, “I could do this.” In this case, I felt at times like Bryant wrote out a rather simple narrative and then broke it into verse. Her variations are cosmetic: line length, page placement. Nothing using rhyme or more structured verse, which I felt would have added some dimension.
As with The Trial, I was just not particularly excited about this one. Comparably, it was better, but there was definitely room for improvement.