WARWICK-"In the 19 years I've been working with teenagers I've always been lucky enough to have my office right off of the hallway. I could just open my door and listen." What high school student assistance counselor and first-time novelist Jerry Sander heard might just shock many parents or other adults who haven't set foot in a high school since their own graduation day. But the conversations would be familiar to teachers and other insiders. Realistic dialogue was the launching point for his foray into fiction with the novel, Permission Slips. National Book Critics Circle member Alan Caruba called Permission Slips "a profoundly disturbing book.
Parents of teenagers will benefit from reading this book." He also included it for his May 2005 Bookviews.com list of "recommended novels." "Adolescents can embody the best we have to offer, as a society," said Sander, "but the loudest, most prominent features of the teen scene right now are meanness, crudeness, and exhibitionism. It mirrors adult society exactly. The only difference is that teens can easily outdo the excesses adults establish as edgy.' Certain kids can make school feel like six hours of watching FOX-TV reality show reruns, including commercials. How on earth can nice kids' ever find each other in such a culture, when so much energy has to be spent trying to pass as acceptably mean or stupid by so many others?" Sander, a Warwick resident, said having four children of his own made the issue more immediate. Is there any place at all in high school for kids of quiet character or kindness? The dilemma was to become the heart of his novel, Permission Slips (The Way It Works Press, $14.95, paperback). Suburban ninth-grader Alison Gepner, a "good girl" who would rather be seen as an edgy individualist, is surrounded by a sea of "stoners," unimaginative trouble-makers, and clueless consumers. The wily schemes of a jealous competitor (Claire, the newly slimmed-down group home girl) threaten to take away Alison's new connection with the intensely attractive and mysterious Elijah before she can claim him as her own. Jerry Sander will be promoting his book, Permission Slips, at a series of signings and readings: Saturday, May 21, at Something Sweet, 17 North St., Middletown, from 4-6 p.m. Sunday, May 22, at Painter's Tavern, 266 Hudson St,. Cornwall-on-Hudson, from 3-7 p.m. Saturday, June 4, at The Bookstore, 20 Main St., Warwick, from 7:30-9 p.m.