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Sample Book Ideas for Literature-Based Reading Enthusiasts

From the 1994 edition of:
The Handbook for the Young Reader's Choice Award
sponsored by the Pacific Northwest Library Association.

for more information contact
Gale Sherman:
Bette Ammon:

More Sample Book Ideas
A 1994 Young Reader's Choice Award Nominee (Grade 9-12):
We All Fall Down
by Robert Cormier

PUBLICATION DETAILS: Cloth: 193 pages. 1991. $16.00 (ISBN 0-385-30501-X). Delacorte.
GENRES: Contemporary realistic fiction, mystery
THEMES: Vandalism, random violence, revenge, alcoholism-teens, troubled teens, divorce, loneliness, belonging, terror, helplessness, anger, love, dysfunctional families, family life, honesty, murder
READABILITY: Seventh grade
INTEREST LEVEL: Eighth through twelfth grade


"As usual, Cormier opens with a scene designed to shock, to draw readers in, compelled to find out what happens next...Cormier has finally come up with the love story he's long said he's wanted to write; however, it's a romance with a difference...The characterizations of Jane, Buddy, and the Avenger are particularly well developed and convincing. Cormier writes with great control here, providing--within the third-person, nonomniscient narrative--an intricate interweaving of alternating viewpoints. While readers may have a broader awareness of what's going on than the individual characters do, there are still elements of surprise and a sense of foreboding that will keep teens turning the pages." Booklist 88(2):137 September 15, 1991. Sally Estes. (Starred review).

Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books 45(2):35 October 1991. Betsy Hearne. (Recommended)

The Horn Book Magazine 67(6):742-43 November/December 1991. Nancy Vasilakis.

"Cormier returns to the gritty form that made him famous. His new novel is sure, accordingly, to inflame the same parental passions and excite the same critical controversies that visited the publication of The Chocolate War (1974) and After the First Death (1979, both Pantheon). It is also sure--like those books--to find a devoted following among the kids themselves, who will recognize and embrace the authenticity of the achingly awful adolescent world that Cormier has created....Cormier is gingerly exploring some new terrain here, both literally...and figuratively...More familiar territory is a suspenseful subplot involving a character called 'The Avenger,' whose goal is to exact revenge for the trashing. Although it certainly will keep readers turning the pages, this may be the weaker part of the novel, particularly its resolution, which seems somewhat glib. Other considerations, however, of character, setting, and the complexity of family interrelationships are richly realized. And the overriding thematic treatment of the dialectics between good and evil and free will vs. predestination is sure to stimulate discussion and vigorous dialectic of its own." School Library Journal 37(9):277-78 September, 1991. Michael Cart. (Starred review).

"We All Fall Down is a thoughtful and thought-provoking novel dealing with two harsh realities in contemporary society--parental divorce and teen alcoholism. All characters are well drawn and readers will empathize with Jane, Buddy, and their families. A sense of foreboding prevails throughout the book, building to a chilling and suspenseful scene...This very accurate portrayal of teen drinking, family breakup, and first love will leave an impact on the reader." Voice of Youth Advocates 14(5):308 December 1991. Joyce Hamilton. (#5 quality, #4 popularity).



Robert Cormier says he went around for thirty years "disguised as a newspaperman." At night his true self was revealed when he pounded out short stories and novels on his old Royal typewriter. A full-time novelist since 1978, Cormier in lives Massachusetts just three miles away from his birthplace. He says he is an excellent example of "write what you know" because that is what he does. As a child, Cormier found his heroes in the library, in books. His writing is greatly influenced by Thomas Wolfe and Ernest Hemingway. Many of Cormier's books have faced controversy. Cormier says "I think it makes some people uncomfortable because I recognize that life isn't always a series of happy endings...My books go against that: the hero doesn't always win, and sometimes you're not sure who the bad guy is."


The April Fools' Day trashing of the Jerome's house leaves the youngest daughter in a coma, the house a physical disaster, and the emotional state of Jane and her parents precarious. No longer able to relate well to her friends, Jane becomes a loner. The trashers are four average high schoolers led by the domineering Harry Flowers. Harry manipulates the group and especially takes advantage of Buddy whose unhappy homelife and growing dependency on alcohol make him a easy victim. The Avenger, an unknown character until the end, sees it all. The book focuses separately on the trashers, the Jeromes and the Avenger, as they unknowingly interact and come together at the story's end.


Engrossing from the first sentence, We All Fall Down is definitely a book to be experienced by individuals reading at their own pace. Sometimes readers will not want to continue; other times they won't be able to stop. Powerful exhausting, and haunting!


They entered the house at 9:02 p.m. on the evening of April Fools' Day.... At 9:51 p.m., the invaders left the house, abandoning the place as suddenly as they had arrived, slamming the doors, rattling the windows, sending shudders along the walls and ceilings. They left behind twenty-three beers cans, two empty vodka bottles, and damage later estimated at twenty thousand dollars, and, worst of all, Karen Jerome, bruised and broken where she lay sprawled on the cellar floor. (pages 1 and 3, hardback edition)
This is just the beginning. Read We All Fall Down to get to know the Jerome family, the trashers, and the Avenger who watched it all.


Buddy had been one of trashers who destroyed Jane's house. Suffering from a guilty conscience, he carefully observed her for days trying to keep out of her sight. It was only after he accidentally tripped and fell that he inadvertently met her.
Rubbing his elbow, listening to her voice, looking at the lips speaking those words, Buddy Walker fell instantly and irrevocably in love with Jane Jerome. At exactly 2:46 p.m. on a Friday afternoon in May at the Mall in downtown Wickburg...She did not fall in love with him for another twenty minutes--it happened while they were chewing pizza with pepperoni at the Pizza Palace in the Mall--although she did not know it as love until later. They became a couple, going steady. (pages 122 and 124, hardback edition)
Buddy knows more about Jane than she knows about him. This romance is doomed from the start.


Contemporary Issues/Vandalism:

The vandalism experienced by the Jerome's is not an isolated or uncommon experience. Vandalism is a serious problem in this country. Are there incidences of trashing in your community? Take a deeper look at this societal problem that ultimately costs all of us. Informational books include Vandalism: The Crime of Immaturity by Dorothy B. Francis (Lodestar, 1983), Violence! Our Fastest-Growing Public Health Problem by John Langone (Little, 1984), and Teenage Violence by Elaine Landau (Messner, 1990).

Related videos are The Morning After: A Story of Vandalism (Pyramid Film & Video) and Vandalism is Not Funny (Karol Video).

English/Author Study:

The value of studying the life of an author and looking at his/her entire body of work and the writing process is helpful for developing indivudual tastes, writing styles, and interests. Students can choose a favorite author to research and do an oral presentation presenting biographical information about the author's life and critical remarks about his/her work.

Cormier exemplifies the best of young adult authors and is an appropriate candidate for such a study. Some other quality authors for young adults are M.E. Kerr, Chris Crutcher, Richard Peck, Lois Duncan, J.R.R. Tolkien, J.D. Salinger, etc.

For biographical sketches consult Speaking for Ourselves (NTCE, 1990) and Speaking for Ourselves, Too (NTCE, 1993) both edited by Don Gallo, Contemporary Authors, the Twayne Author series, and periodical (education and library) indexes to journal articles.

Government/Gun Control Legislation:

The Avenger steals his grandfather's gun and uses it to kill someone. Since the assassination of President Kennedy, the issue of gun control has remained controversial and topical. Research the Brady Bill, the position of the National Rifle Association, and the 1993 firearm standoff between the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and the Branch Davidians in Waco, Texas for varying perspectives on this issue.

Students can take a position, debate the topic, or write a bill supporting their stance. Books of interest include The Gun Control Debate: You Decide edited by Lee Nisbet (Prometheus, 1990) and The Citizen's Guide to Gun Control by Franklin E. Zimring and Gordon Hawkins (Macmillan, 1987), Under the Gun: Weapons, Crimes, and Violence in America by James D. Wright et al. (Aldine, 1983)

Health/Teen Alcoholism:

Buddy's abuse of alcohol is related to the despondency he feels about his parents and their impending divorce. Teen drinking is an important issue in every community and with the ever-changing adolescent population, the need to address these issues is always relevant.

Make available some of the many titles on this subject such as Contract for Life by Robert Anastas (Pocket Books, 1986), Paul Dolmetsch and Gail Mauricette's Teen Talk About Alcohol and Alcoholism (Dolphin, 1987), and Jane Claypool Miner's Alcohol and You (Watts, 1988), Straight Talk about Drinking: Teenagers Speak Out about Alcohol by Wayne Coffey (NAL, 1988), Drinking, Driving &Drugs by Jean McBee Knox (Chelsea, 1988), and/or Driving the Drunk off the Road: A Handbook for Action by Sandy Golden (Quince Mill, 1993).

Related videos are It Won't Happen To Me (Coronet/MTI Films & Video) and Don't Say Yes When You Really Mean No (Magic Music).



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