I have been hearing about this book for so long, I thought it was time to read it when my boyfriend bought it ! Indeed, it deals with important issues, notably the lessons of History, psychology and group thinking as well as nazism. Besides, it won the 1981 Massachusetts Book Award for Children’s/Young Adult literature. So I thought, why not give it a try ?
The Wave is novel written in 1981 by Todd Strasser. It is a novelization of a teleplay by Johnny Dawkins for the movie The Wave, a fictionalized account of the “Third Wave” teaching experiment by Ron Jones that took place in a Ellwood P. Cubberley High School history class in Palo Alto, California. I really liked the idea that this was based on real events, and it increased my curiosity.
So as I said, The Wave had an interesting starting point : a true story, the sociological and psychological aspects and consequences of a social experiment led in a school… Unfortunately, this setting remained too childish for me. Despite taking place in a high school, I felt like what I was reading was happening in a primary school which gave the story and its characters too much naivety.
Indeed, the reader is presented with a history teacher who seems to know nothing about what he is supposed to teach his pupils ; we also face protagonists that lack any strong traits of character, without any interesting personality, all way to stereotyped. The dunce of the class who does not have any friend, the hot quarterback, the first of her class who also happen to be in charge of the school newspaper… It is like reading the script of a bad TV show from the 90s like Beverly Hills – and with the names that go with it !
This lack of depth is also observable in Strasser’s writing style. Not only The Wave is way too short in my opinion, its sentences are also so simple, raw, like the author wanted to use the less complicated vocabulary possible. And of course that plays negatively for the basis of the story : nazism, the real story of what happened in Palo Alto.
What could have been a really good novel remains at its starting point, at its draft point even. The denouement is expected from the very beginning, and it is with great deception that the reader turns the last page of the book – but unfortunately without any surprise.
In conclusion, this story has seen its potential wasted because of a novel that stays on the surface. It’s too bad, I would have liked to know more, to get to know some of the characters. The leads to explore the story, to give more depth to the book were numerous : the teacher ending up as a dictator in spite of himself, the dunce that manages to find and build his identity through the newly create community of The Wave, the downward spiral of violence, experiencing our limits, the power of group thinking…