A Thousand Steps

A Thousand Steps
A Thousand Steps by T. Jefferson Parker

Monday, February 6, 2017

The Most Dangerous Place on Earth by Lindsey Lee Johnson- Feature and Review


A captivating debut novel for readers of Celeste Ng's Everything I Never Told You and Curtis Sittenfeld's PrepThe Most Dangerous Place on Earth unleashes an unforgettable cast of characters into a realm known for its cruelty and peril: the American high school.

In an idyllic community of wealthy California families, new teacher Molly Nicoll becomes intrigued by the hidden lives of her privileged students. Unknown to Molly, a middle school tragedy in which they were all complicit continues to reverberate for her kids: Nick, the brilliant scam artist; Emma, the gifted dancer and party girl; Dave, the B student who strives to meet his parents expectations; Calista, the hippie outcast who hides her intelligence for reasons of her own. Theirs is a world in which every action may become public postable, shareable, indelible. With the rare talent that transforms teenage dramas into compelling and urgent fiction, Lindsey Lee Johnson makes vivid a modern adolescence lived in the gleam of the virtual, but rich with the sorrow, passion, and beauty of life in any time, and at any age.



The Most Dangerous Place on EarthThe Most Dangerous Place on Earth by Lindsey Lee Johnson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Most Dangerous Place on Earth by Lindsey Lee Johnson is a 2017 Random House publication.

Young Adult novels, as popular as they are, never caught on with me. However, this book, was compared to Celeste Ng’s novel, which was outstanding, so despite some minor reservations, I decided to give the book a try.

Middle school students living in a wealthy California enclave struggle with peer pressure, parental expectations, family hardships, and the consequences of their choices, caught in that agonizing limbo between childhood and adulthood, while an idealistic young teacher longs to forge a stronger bond with her students in hopes of making a greater impact on their lives, as a whole.

This novel is an eye -opening look at the lives of young people whose lives cross and intersect throughout pivotal points in their lives. The decisions they make are reckless, spur of the moment, and the fallout often takes a very heavy toll.

Each student gets a moment in the spotlight which examines their personal lives, inner struggles, and how this impacts their choices, friendships, and the path they decide to take in life. Their lives are filled with experimental drug and alcohol use, sexual encounters, bullying, social media and private messaging, while their home lives are not exactly warm and fuzzy.

What makes this tale different from other stories of teenage angst is that this particular group of people are not altogether likeable or easy to empathize with, what with their attitudes, privilege, carelessness, and seeming lack of conscience or awareness of the potential outcome of their words or actions.

In contrast, the young rookie teacher finds herself frustrated by the lack of enthusiasm from her students, her inability to inspire them, while constantly looking for a way to engage them. She also finds the teaching staff employs as many cliques as the student body does.

The writing style is unique as the story unfolds through a time span which covers the eighth grade through the senior year of high school and highlights the growth and setbacks the students endure before setting off on their own individual journey through adulthood.

This breakdown between grade levels sections the book off and allows the reader to follow this entitled group of kids via vignettes or short stories, while weaving them together within a common thread, which gave the book cohesiveness.

For me the agonizing line that teachers much draw in order to survive in this occupation was the most thought provoking area of the book. There is a very fine line teachers must walk and many of them gave up, or used their positions in disgusting ways, or become jaded and cynical. But, a line is drawn and while crossing it may result in making a huge and positive impact on a student, it can also backfire horribly.

This novel is a little off the beaten path for me, and I feel the comparisons to Ng’s novel is a bit ambitious, this is still a gripping story, and gives the reader a better understanding of the world young people must cope with, while giving us a glance at the behind the scenes politics teachers encounter, as well. I found it to be a compelling read and I’m glad I decided to give it a chance.




Lindsey Lee Johnson holds a master of professional writing degree from the University of Southern California and a BA in English from the University of California at Davis. She's taught writing at USC, Clark College, and Portland State University, and has served as a tutor and mentor at a private learning center, where her focus has been teaching writing to teenagers. Born and raised in Marin County, she now lives with her husband in Los Angeles. The Most Dangerous Place on Earth is her debut novel.

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