Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Scandalous: 50 shocking events you should know about (so you can impress your friends) by Hallie Fryd

I'm always interested in the teen nonfiction that Zest Books produces. It's usually interesting, different, a little quirky. This book has the potential to be a popular browsing read for teens, but some major issues as well.

Exactly as the title says, it's 50 scandals spread over the past hundred years. Each scandal has a headline, date, and brief summary "the scoop" and a list of the principal characters involved, "the players." A page or two of more details, "what went down" gives more information. Each section also has a captioned photo, a couple quotes, what happened to the people involved afterwards, how the scandal affected history and culture, and similar scandals.

The scandals are a diverse group beginning in 1906 with a murder and ending in 2000 with the Bush/Gore election. Scandals include:

  • Upton Sinclair's exposure of meat-packing plants
  • The murder accusation of silent film star "Fatty" Arbuckle
  • Lindbergh kidnapping
  • Rosenberg's trial and execution
  • Jerry Lee Lewis' underage marriage scandal
  • Kent State shooting
  • Tuskegee Syphilis Study
  • Jonestown Massacre
  • Madonna's Blond Ambition tour
  • Rodney King and the race riots
  • Bill Clinton sex scandal
As a matter of personal interest, I knew 30 of them! The writing style is racy, the information is divided into bite-size bits, and there's a good mixture of history, politics, celebrities, and mysteries all mixed in together. I received this title as part of my Junior Library Guild's standing order for my teen section in the popular picks for older teens.

So, what's not to like? Well...the complete lack of any kind of sources to start with. It was also a bit jarring to see scandals that I lived through, that people still argue about, presented in a couple of pages with a "this is how it was and this is how people see it now" attitude, which is a bit one-sided. Also, the typo on page 12. And the typo on page 23. And on page 44. And page 54. And page 68. Oh, and the grammatical error on page 81. The error on page 107 is a quote, so it could be the quote that's wrong, but it's a punctuation error that point I stopped counting. I kept flipping to the back of the book to see if I had accidentally been shipped a galley. I checked a couple other reviews and apparently there are some factual errors as well, which I missed.

Verdict: It was a great idea and teens are probably unlikely to notice the errors, but I can't believe they didn't at least run a grammar check, which would have caught some of the obvious typos! If they amend it, it's a great book. Otherwise, I would only purchase it if you want an example of poor proofreading. I'd send it back, but it's already cataloged.

[Update: I received a note from the publisher that this book was published during an editorial transition period - and I'm happy to note that the errors will be corrected in the second printing! So hang on to your budgets until then because this is a fun title teens will enjoy.]

ISBN: 9780982732205; Published February 2012 by Zest Books; Borrowed from the library; Purchased through Junior Library Guild standing orders for the library

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