Zero Tolerance by Claudia Mills
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Sierra Shepard is a model seventh-grader who has more in common with Hermione than Drako Malfoy. On a particularly hectic morning, Sierra accidentally grabs her mother’s lunch instead of her own. When she realizes at school that Mom’s lunch includes a paring knife to cut her apple, Sierra heads straight for the lunch monitor to turn it in. She’s shocked when the monitor marches her to the principal’s office.
Because the school has a policy on bringing weapons to school. A zero tolerance policy.
What I found so interesting about this book was the way each character’s perspective is explored, from Sierra, who is baffled by the school’s response to her innocent mistake (in-school suspension and a hearing set for her expulsion), to the “my hands are tied” principal, who feels he has no choice but to take a hard stance, despite the fact that he’s had a few rules bent for him in his career. During her time in detention, Sierra encounters the school’s “baddies” and further realizes that labels aren’t always so black and white.
This would make a fantastic book for a school or library book club as it explores a situation where there is no hero and no villain, only a complicated ripped-from-the-headlines modern dilemma. Middle grade students who are starting to think beyond “because I said so” answers from adults, will find this a compelling read.
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