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Dan Versus Nature
Don Calame
The Compassionate Instinct: The Science of Human Goodness
Jason Marsh, Jeremy Adam Smith, Dacher Keltner
Progress: 25/316 pages
Poison Ivy - Amy Goldman Koss When a girl who has been bullied for years decides to bring the three tormenters to their government class for a trial, the case exposes the frailties of justice when the class is made to participate.

The good: with short chapters and easy to understand language, this is a good book for reluctant readers who find the premise intriguing. It's a fast read, more middle grade fare with YA subject matter. The set up premise makes sense as well. Victimized Ivy never really makes herself sympathetic and is mostly passive, which helps in setting up the reasonableness of how this longstanding abuse has gone on and why so many classmates turn a blind eye to it. The chapters alternate between different POVs, showing how the personal desires and motivations can interfere with truthful findings.

The bad: for those who wanted a more nuanced or complex story hinted from the premise, you will find the set up promising but most of the characters behind them as one-note: the space case, the painfully shy one, the self-preservationist, the upstanding serious one. The plot hinges on a lot of failures of the kids, who are either ineffective or sycophantic (and the only one who takes it seriously sounds too much like an adult to be realistic, not to mention being conveniently removed from pulling a Twelve Angry Men with the jury pool). The continued sham of a trial compiles these problems, bringing with it a suspension of disbelief that never holds enough sympathy or character development to bring about a satisfactory resolution, guilty or innocent.