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Sample Book Ideas for Literature-Based Reading Enthusiasts

From the 1997 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
Driver's Ed
by Caroline B. Cooney

A 1997 Young Reader's Choice Award Nominee (Grade 9-12)

PUBLICATION DETAILS: Cloth: LC 94-9445. 184p. 1994. $15.95 (ISBN 0-385-32087-6). Delacorte. Paper: $4.50 (ISBN 0-440-21981-7). Dell/Laurel-Leaf.
GENRES: Contemporary realistic fiction
THEMES: Drivers education, driving, guilt, peer pressure, shock, cars, friendship, boy-girl relationships, family life, vandalism, death, responsibility, choices, parents, love, risk taking, fear, consequences, truth, support, coping, accidents, secrets, teachers.
READABILITY: Sixth grade
INTEREST LEVEL: Seventh through twelfth grade


"Here's a novel that really sneaks up on you....The substance of the novel develops rather slowly. It's prefaced by some wry, irresistible scenes that replicate the exquisite tortures of high-school crushes while setting the stage for the tragedy. Then, with graceful ease, Cooney slips back and forth from Remy to Morgan, to give readers a glimpse of the different ways the teenagers handle their nightmarish burden and their families'--especially their mothers'--reactions. A poignant, realistic novel, with nicely drawn characters and a vintage metaphor that's actually refreshing: a driver's license (not first sex) is the 'ticket out of childhood.'" Booklist 90(19/20):1809 June 1 & 15, 1994. Stephanie Zvirin. (Starred review)

Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books 48(1):10 September 1994. Elizabeth Bush. (Recommended)

"Cooney uses her familiar fast-paced, conversational style throughout the novel. As the action intensifies, the sentences get shorter and more pointed. This stylistic device intensifies the drama and underlines the horror of the situation. Great literature this is not. However, the simple plot, told from Remy and Morgan's alternating viewpoints, is in no way simplistic, as it takes on sensitive issues and deals with them in a compelling manner. The overriding tension and the theme of an innocent prank backfiring into tragedy will attract teens and heighten the book's appeal." School Library Journal 40(8):168 August 1994. Susan R. Farber.

"...difficult to put down for its intensity....The frightening aspect of the events in the story is that it could happen anywhere, because the risks teenagers take are universal. I found it wonderfully written, and very realistic. Reluctant readers as usual, will find this author tops." Voice of Youth Advocates 17(4):206 October 1994. Rachel Axelrod. (#4-quality, #4-popularity).



Caroline B. Cooney was born and bred in Connecticut and still lives there in a small town. She began writing mysteries in college because that was her genre of choice to read. Since she was first published at age 30, Cooney has written numerous books for children and young adults, including a television movie adaptation of her book Rear View Mirror. Cooney says she started out writing a light book about a "fluff course," Driver's Ed, with the realization that obtaining a driver's license is every teenager's "passport to freedom." But the story took a more serious turn when her editor remarked that driver's ed "is the only life-and-death course in school." Including parental perspectives is a constant theme in Cooney's work. Her book The Face on the Milk Carton (YRCA Senior Division Winner) deals with parents who worry while Driver's Ed features parents who are shocked. Cooney has two daughters (who "read constantly and read everything") and one son (who has helped her understand reluctant readers). She tried four colleges but feels her real education has come from reading seemingly millions of books.


Mr. Fielding, the Driver's Ed teacher, pays absolutely no attention to his students or their driving. He doesn't even realize they switch name tags so some people drive frequently while others never drive. Remy and Morgan, interested in each other, often drive and willingly participate when a classmate suggests stealing road signs. The prank causes a deadly accident and the two must deal with overwhelming guilt and fear, as well as the consequences when they tell their parents the truth.


Use the Booktalks below to introduce this fast-paced, high-interest novel. The story is so plausible it's scary and most readers won't be able to put it down. This book should be required reading for all Driver's Education classes and the focus for follow-up discussions.


Smashing mailboxes is the current rage with some local vandals and the topic of discussion before a Driver's Ed class.
"Lots of idiots go out and paint rocks with their initials," Lark said. "Or paint the sides of bridges. Or in this case, smash mailboxes. The urge for immortality, of course." Remy was surprised by this little speech. She took her eyes off Morgan long enough to check out Lark's smile. Small, stretched--a rubber band demanding to be shot. "You know what I'm thinking?" said Lark. The class listened. Lark usually had good ideas. "Let's all take signs. I love signs. Let's make it a class game." (page 24, hardback edition; page 23, paperback edition).
Remy and Morgan decide to play. Read Driver's Ed to find out the consequences of this game.


(Prop: create a advertisement, 22 inches by 14 inches, black type with a "charming photograph of a pretty woman." Include the following text:)

Look at this beautiful woman.
Only twenty-six.
You killed her.
You ended her life and left mine empty forever.
Don't sleep tonight. Lie there.
Think about my wife.
Think about my motherless son.
Tell me who murdered my wife.

(page 96, hardback edition; page 102, paperback edition)

If you read Driver's Ed, you'll know who murdered this woman...and what happens to them.


Contemporary Issues/Vandalism:

Vandals in Driver's Ed have been destroying mailboxes but Remy and Morgan's class decide to go after road signs instead. Vandalism is a serious problem in many communities. 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).

Current Events/Government/ Ethics/Politics/Internet:

Morgan's father is preparing to announce his candidacy for governor. Our current political climate often features negative campaigning and mudslinging. Morgan fears that his crime will end his father's political career. Class discussions can focus on the ethics of campaigning and students can research this topic further by referring to books such as System of Survival: A Dialogue on the Moral Foundations of Commerce and Politics by Jane Jacobs (Random, 1992). Further research can include periodicals, current speeches, and on-line searches such as the web site for USA Today Election '96.

Provide students with examples of negative advertising and candidate speeches.

Driver's Education/Internet :

This book should be required reading for all Driver's Education classes. Concern about Driver's Ed programs has always focused on teacher quality and the limited classroom and practical experience. Now with budget cuts that affect these programs, concern is even greater. One solution is "graduated licensing," a three-tiered system creating a provisional license between a learner's permit and a regular license. See USA Today February 15, 1995, page 4D, "Driver's Ed Programs Need a Major Tuneup" to begin student research into proposed changes. A web site of interest is Traffic Safety Information Village. This site provides a keyword search of its own database and links to other sites.



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