The Wave – Todd Strasser : Warning! Opinions!

Hi blog friends! I’m going to start this blog by saying that I’m a total nerd. As if writing a blog about books wasn’t a huge clue to you, yes: I am a nerd. I’ve always been a literature geek, and I’ve always been super into history. Fortunately, that means I’m incredibly well-read and bitch I can school you on the goddamn Dust Bowl! Unfortunately, it means that I can’t tell you anything about physics and if you ask me for change I will need to pull out my calculator. The things you sacrifice for art.

Rachel? You might ask. Where the hell is this going? I’m glad you asked, friend. You see, a little while ago my significant other told me about a book that he loves to this day. It’s called The Wave by Todd Strasser. The book is actually based on a real life classroom experiment gone wrong. The premise is exactly the same as what happened in real life, only fictionalized to bring in the human interest side of the novel.

It’s about a history teacher that was trying to teach The Holocaust to his students, but his students couldn’t understand how the people of Germany, and the surrounding Nazis, could just blindly follow someone and do horrible things. The teacher tried to explain to them that sometimes people just get caught up and can’t find a way out. The students still couldn’t understand. To them, it makes no sense how someone can forget their morals and do what everyone else around them is doing just because it’s the hip thing to do. (Am I old for saying “hip”?)

What the teacher decided was to give his students “order”. He taught them about “strength through discipline” and gave them specific rules to follow and specific ways to address him. Mr. Ross, the history teacher, finds that this works incredibly well with his students until they start a movement in the school called “The Wave”. Anyone in the classroom that Mr. Ross is using the “strength through discipline” technique is a part of The Wave, and if you don’t join, members of The Wave get violent and cruel.

A group of people from the school newspaper see the terror in this and try to expose the true story: When there is someone or something to blindly follow, people who have incredibly strong opinions will defend it no matter the cost. The school soon sees what Mr. Ross has been doing to the students – getting them to understand how a huge sum of people could be inclined to do stupid and horrible things just because everyone else is doing it.

This is an incredibly short novel, it’s less than 150 pages, and honestly it doesn’t need to be any longer – it gets to the point very easily and anything more would just seem drawn out.

The thing that really interested me about this novel was not the historical implications or the way that the author writes about how a school could get caught up in such a thing. Instead it made me think of the modern world and how that same thing happens in so many different countries all over the world.

For example, remember back in 2011 the revolution in Egypt? There was a tyrannical dictator for 30 years, and people had had enough. A congregation of about two million people of all races, ethnicities, and religions came together in Tahrir Square to do a sit-in until President Mubarak stepped down. And you know what? He did.

But the revolution didn’t stop there. Because after that joyous occasion, different groups of people began to come into the light under the guise of wanting to better the Egyptian society. Unfortunately, the next elected president, Morsi, wanted almost complete power in Egypt (declaring himself Egypt’s “new pharaoh”) and the people that had followed him and wanted him to president to better Egypt were now stuck between a rock and a hard place: do they follow him when he’s saying to attack anyone who opposes him? Or do they fight for what they believe in?

This is the same thing. Maybe it’s in a different century, but it’s still a People that wanted a better life for themselves and their children, following someone that may not have all of the citizens best interests at heart, but promised a better life, and ended with yet another dictator stronger than the last.

If you don’t remember the revolution or if don’t know about it, I highly recommend looking into it because something like “the wave,” or the Egyptian revolution can happen at any time. The thing that matters is sticking with what you believe in and not letting anyone tell you how you should act, how you should think or what you should believe in.

…Well, that was my rambling way of saying that this book is frickin’ awesome. It’s very short, it’s to the point, but the message is incredibly strong. Humans are prone to faults, that’s just a fact. But the important thing is to realize that even though we can be clique-y and often way too stubborn in our beliefs, that doesn’t mean we have to be mean or cruel to people to get that point across. That doesn’t mean that we can’t have brains, and use our words instead of taking radical action.

History is always doomed to repeat itself if we don’t first understand how it comes to be in the first place.

Alright. It’s time for me to grab a piece of chocolate and read Dan Brown’s Angels & Demons – AKA  I’m going to get into bed and never come out again until I find out what the damn ending is.

Until next time, friends!

Rachel

email: rachel@booksandcleverness.com

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