Book Review: The Wave by Todd Strasser

The WaveTitle: The Wave
Author: Todd Strasser
Published: 1981
Publisher: Dell
Pages: 144
From: Barnes and Noble
Rating: 7/10

In the 1960s, a teacher in California experimented with his high school history class to explain how the mob mentality worked during World War II and the Nazi rule. The experiment succeeded, in more ways than one.

Todd Strasser dramatized the experiment and novelized it, turning it into something tweens can learn from.

The Wave, published in 1981, takes place in a high school history class, similar to the California teacher’s experiment. Laurie Saunders’s history class is learning about World War II, but no one in the class can grasp how everyone followed the Nazis without a word. Ben Ross, their instructor, decides to experiment with his students by adding structure to their day, making them answer questions a certain way and giving the class a name, the Wave.

Eventually, the day’s experiment extends another day, and another, until they have a slogan and the class’s grades have improved. However, some students have taken the experiment to the next level, to a dangerous level. Laurie and her boyfriend David see how dangerous the experiment is getting and try putting a stop to it.

I’ve always been fascinated by psychology and how the mind works, and what makes people do the things they do, and this short novel really looks into that. How can one class have so much improvement in their lives in less than one hour, and want to continue with that behavior the next day? How can one student not want to participate in the experiment the whole time, what makes that one student different? How can one teacher not see what his experiment is doing to his students?

The brain, I’ve felt, is the leading cause of stories. Really good stories, really good novels, focus on what the characters are thinking, why they’re thinking that and what they will do because of or despite that thinking. The Wave looks at what these characters are thinking and their decisions because of that, in a way that young readers can understand. Strasser succeeds in getting his point across: sociology is a part of life. What you do with it, that’s up to you.

This short novel, less than 150 pages, is worth a look. A few hours of the day, and it will make you think about so many things: World War II, Nazis, high school and a community as a whole. And, everyone is part of a community.

How do you affect your community?

The Wave is available for purchase from Barnes and Noble and Amazon.

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