Peeled by Joan Bauer

Yesterday’s teen book group thoroughly reamed Joan Bauer’s Peeled, a book that I had liked until I heard the teens discuss it.  Peeled also received rave reviews from multiple review journals; that along with its great cover made me feel like this was an excellent choice for the book group (and all of the teen book group books this year have been suggested by one of the teens in the group). 

What did they hate about the book?  The core of the plot felt contrived and unbelievable to this group of teens; they asked why an entire town would fall victim to a developer’s plan to create mass ghost hysteria in order to buy up land cheap and construct a haunted theme park.  The group also felt that the town’s dependence on and faith in the local newspaper was odd – they wanted the townspeople to question the sensationalist articles that were printed there.

And the teen characters were too unrealistic to be sympathetic.  Elizabeth felt too idealized to them, Hildy too juvenile for her age, Zack too boring, Baker’s motives were unclear (“Hello?” said one teen, “If he just lost his job, why isn’t he out looking for a new one?????”).  The group also wondered why these fictional teens had so much free time to pursue their journalistic ideals – why didn’t they ever have to do homework?  Why weren’t they ever thinking of the academic challenges that they faced?

In sum, the book failed for this group on every level.  And towards the end of our discussion, one teen expressed it best:  “This book feels like it’s twenty years out of date, and it was just published.”