Backpack Blues is a young adult story in verse set in a fragile world, the rural Mountain Valley High School, located in the extreme northeastern section of the Adirondack Mountains. ACE JACKSON serves as a master of ceremonies, but each student shares the limelight for a moment.
The narrative begins with an invitation by MARISOL GARCIA to enter the world of her senior class. We hear CORA SIMMONS’ cry for acceptance. One by one, Cora’s classmates speak about themselves and their lives through the poems they hand in to the English teacher MRS. DEYON, or crumple up and throw into the basket to be retrieved by the snoopy janitor SAWYAH TRUMAN. Sometimes they gossip about each other. More often, they spill their troubles, complain about their lives, or criticize the lack of justice.
ROSS PARROTTE, the ballplayer frequently mentioned by others, makes most of his classmates’ lives miserable. His bullying prompts TOBY THOMAS to eat his troubles.
Problems escalate until the day of the senior ball. The anthology of vignettes in verse explores the pressures of home life, relationships, and school life faced by the members of Cora’s class. Combined, the culturally diverse poems demonstrate a blend of humor, alienation, and determination.
Backpack Blues celebrates the resourcefulness it takes to make it in the classrooms, halls, and locker rooms of contemporary schools, but also reminds readers no one ever leaves school totally behind.