Explanation of rating
Summary: The story opens up with Jack explaining how it's his birthday. Everything is a fact, and Ma (obviously Jack's mother) knows everything. From the jacket summary, the reader already knows that Ma had been kidnapped years early and held captive in the room. Through Jack's simple conversations and observations of his mother, we learn that she had nearly given up on life before he was born from the rape of their captor, Old Nick.
Jack details his daily routine and describes each of the objects in the Room. Everything has a purpose and can be used as a toy - showing the creativity and desperation Ma has succumbed to in order to provide any semblence of life for her son. They run "track" for Phys. Ed. in a small section of Room; they create their own ruler and measure every inch; they play Scream every weekday, when they yell as loud as they can at the small skylight that provides the only section of sky Jack has ever known. While he's learned reading and writing and mathematics, his Ma has him believe that Room is all that's real, and all else is TV (like stores, houses, other people). He's advanced in so many ways, yet limited in an eleven-by-eleven foot room.
The day comes when Ma tries to explain her old life and the world outside of Room, which is almost incomprehensible to Jack's mind. With the memories, the seed is planted in Ma's head that she could try again for an escape, now using Jack (whom she obviously didn't have seven years earlier when she was first kidnapped). The real issues, though, come when Jack is thrusted into Outside and must experience, for the first time, humanity and life.
Opinion: I'd heard incredible things about this book from people who attended BEA 2010. That's a long time to wait before I actually got my hands on it as a Christmas gift from my father. [It's officially the first book I've read in 2011!]
Admittedly it was a bit hard to read at first. The point-of-view being from a five year-old boy really messes with the syntax and vocabulary that I basically set my career on. After I settled into the pages, though, I fell in love with the writing. This story is truly told in the unique voice of Jack that sticks with you in every word.
While I was drawn in to reading the story based on the premises of a young boy living only in one room all his life, it become quickly obvious that the story is not about that confined life. It becomes a narrative about the world and how it is percieved by someone who could never have comprehended the simplicity and complexities of it before. [Back in high school Biology, my teacher had the class go around to different lab tables to look at ordinary objects and describe them as if we've never encountered them before... but our minds could only reach so far. I kept thinking back to that experiment while reading.] I was getting bored with the story before Ma and Jack escaped, which is perhaps a good thing - I could only imagine Ma having lived before Jack and the boredom she had to battle.
Unfortunately, it fell just a little short of my expectations. I was hoping for story that would make me cry... instead it just made me curious, as if it was a case study or something.
For School? (Hey, I'm a teacher, I think about this stuff!) Probably not, only because I'm thinking as a high school teacher and I could only imagine the controversy it would cause to teach this book to teens. However, as a study of how to write in a Voice: absolutely.