The 57 Bus: A True Story of Two Teenagers and the Crime That Changed Their Lives by Dashka Slater

The 57 Bus: A True Story of Two Teenagers and the Crime That Changed Their LivesThe 57 Bus: A True Story of Two Teenagers and the Crime That Changed Their Lives by Dashka Slater
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This story is one that deserves to be told. It’s a true story about an agender student who is set on fire on a bus. The content is good and worthy of a book. However, it was just an okay read for me. I struggled with the presentation, particularly in the first half. While I usually applaud a unique style and/or daring approach, this is one that appears interesting but doesn’t always read well.

The style is somehow both flowery and clipped. Also, for me, the first half of the book was too cold and emotionless. As a result, I held the book at arm’s length. Yes, I know it’s nonfiction, but it’s still presented as a story, which means I expected to get caught up in a story. There were moments that caught my attention, but those were so short I could barely enjoy them before being thrown back into the clipped report style.

Basically, it’s nonfiction that occasionally reads like fiction. The start is extraordinarily clinical and does a lot of listing of facts, which did not pull me in. The author likes to use passive sentences with 3-4 adjectives for everything, followed by no action, which is off-putting and doesn’t really give me a better understanding of the situation or the setting. Examples (not exact quotes): The bus was hot, muggy, musty, chaotic, and crowded. It was loud, obnoxious, rowdy. The kids were tired, wired, etc. . . You get the picture, and often these sentences back up together, so it’s just one list of adjectives after another.

Since this is nonfiction, I guess it doesn’t have to follow the “show don’t tell” mantra of fiction writing, so it doesn’t. There’s lots of telling, and many sections read more like a text book, report, or newspaper article. There are occasional disruptions of what feels like random poetry, but that is really out of place and doesn’t make sense with the rest of the story and structure. As a result, it disrupts the story more than it adds to it.

Honestly, this would have been easier to read if it had just been straightforward nonfiction or all in a newspaper or report format. I think the transitions are poor between the varied styles, and that’s really at the heart of what bothers me and disrupts the story. The small bits that do read like fiction would draw me in. However, that just caused a bigger disconnect, because then I wanted the whole book to be that compelling. I especially dislike when it shifts from 3rd person to 2nd person, as that really pulled me out of the story.

That being said, I still believe this is a story worthy of being told, and I know it’s going to connect with some people. I probably just wasn’t the right reader for this book. It would also be a good book for discussion, and it could even be broken down into segments and discussed both out of order, or even out of context in some instances.

Book 137 read in 2018

Pages: 320

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