…OR NOT? is definitely one of my favorite books read in recent memory. Cassie is such a completely real, entirely interesting, and very unique character! This book is made up of her journals, written in her fresh, original voice. Cassie’s a fourteen year old girl with opinions and beliefs that make her an outcast at school (ie, she is not a blindly patriotic evangelical Christian). She’s lots of things–a writer, a vegan, a thinker–but at school they’d rather just label her a terrorist (as we do in the post-9/11 world) and be done with it. At school, she’s harassed and taunted with epithets like “American Taliban slut,” especially after she refuses to sing ” Proud To Be An American” at school.

In a high school like Cassie’s fictional one, this book would probably be banned. Or maybe burned.

Cassie is a strong-willed, gutsy, and very likeable protagonist, with a distinct voice, one great character in a whole cast of them. Her story really draws readers in; it’s quite a lengthy book, but it certainly doesn’t drag on. It’s also a very relevant story today. Prejudiced people like those Cassie has to deal with are everywhere. I remember once in middle school getting in huge trouble for not saying the pledge of allegiance. I, however, am not as brave as Cassie; I’d like to have her courage, but, after that, I stood up and pretended to say it.

It’s a thought-provoking, extremely well-written first novel. Brian Mandabach’s debut is brilliant, and I am really looking forward to reading whatever this talented author writes next.

Five Stars