Trash Can Days: A Mid­dle School Saga

Ted­dy Steinkellner
  • Review
By – February 14, 2014

Four teenage junior high stu­dents, each with a dis­tinc­tive approach to life, typ­i­fy some of the many dif­fer­ences among stu­dents of that age. Jake Schwartz is the nerd of the group. He loves study­ing, is real­ly a lit­tle boy” in many ways, and ratio­nal­izes the rejec­tion of his peers by deny­ing the hurt it brings. Han­nah, his old­er sis­ter, is an often thought­less social queen”. They live a wealthy sub­ur­ban Jew­ish lifestyle and Dan­ny, the His­pan­ic son of their house­keep­ers, lives on the premis­es and is Jake’s close friend. But Dan­ny is matur­ing more quick­ly than Jake and is more ready to enter the school social scene which threat­ens their friend­ship. Jake’s friend, Dorothy Wu does not fit the stereo­type of an Asian teen­ager. She is not good at math, loves writ­ing fan­ta­sy sto­ries, and devel­ops a writ­ing group that brings her unex­pect­ed friend­ships and pop­u­lar­i­ty. Eth­nic back­grounds and matu­ri­ty lev­els com­bine with per­son­al­i­ty traits and play a big part in the devel­op­ment of each char­acter. Danny’s gang involve­ment and Jake’s upcom­ing bar mitz­vah are also cat­a­lysts in the action that change each of these four stu­dents as they move slow­ly and cau­tious­ly toward the adults they will become.

The author has a won­der­ful ear for the lan­guage of teenagers and the milieu in which they live. The pas­sages in which the teenagers text each oth­er reveal their true feel­ings about a vari­ety of sub­jects. He also shows how lit­tle par­ents and teach­ers actu­al­ly know about the inter­ac­tions of their chil­dren and stu­dents. This includes the cru­el­ty of the teenage years as well as the risk tak­ing that can often be life threat­en­ing. Rec­om­mend­ed for ages 12 – 15

Marge Kaplan is a retired Eng­lish as a Sec­ond Lan­guage teacher. She is a con­sul­tant for the children’s lit­er­a­ture group for the Roseville, MN school sys­tem and is a sto­ry­teller of Jew­ish tales.

Discussion Questions