Monday, September 04, 2006

Pay It Forward by Catherine Ryan Hyde

She wanted to know what she would do, but really there was nothing.
Years ago, maybe then. "Options" was not such a useless word. But, now there was the boy to think about. Suicide, homicide, telling the boss to shove it, they were all off the menu for years, maybe forever.

I like that quote because I understand it. When you have children, there are certain things about life that change--or should--things you might have done as a childless person but can't or shouldn't or won't even consider knowing that it's not just your own life that will be altered. I thought the author did a good job of creating a mother who was flawed but tried, who knew her boundaries and struggled to stay within them.

Sorry about the tiny image. I guess that's what I get for being so far behind the times. I have not seen the movie version (yet - I'd still like to watch the movie) but this is the correct cover illustration for the copy I acquired.

The story in brief: When Trevor McKinney’s new social studies teacher gives his students an extra credit assignment to find a way to change the world for the better, Trevor comes up with the idea to help out three people. Rather than ask those people to pay him back, Trevor requests that each person “pay it forward” by helping out three more people in whatever way they most need help, beginning a chain of human kindness.

I’m not sure whether there’s anything left to be said about this book. Although I’ve never seen the movie and I was slow to get around to reading the novel, the idea is so straightforward that there were not any huge surprises;. Still, it was an enjoyable read and I liked the idea, whether or not I found it completely plausible. I guess I’m a little too jaded to think such widespread goodness could possibly occur.

The author made a point of making Trevor’s fate obvious at the beginning, and I also appreciated the warning. I thought it was a fairly consistent book and, although the outcome of the “pay it forward” concept seems unrealistic to me and I don't think the book will stick with me for long, it was presented with a good dose of reality, so I’ve given it a slightly above-average rating.

One of the main reasons I didn't feel like I could give this book my highest rating was the style the author used. It took me a very long time to get used to the way the author bounced back and forth between perspectives, sometimes in first-person and sometimes third. You always know when Trevor is speaking because his name is at the top of the page, for example, but the sections that were written by a reporter can describe anyone; sometimes they're done in interview style (question-answer) and sometimes a character reflects in first-person. I really disliked having to try to puzzle out who was speaking.

Overall, though, a very good read.



  1. I personally liked this movie, but maybe not so much for the quality, but the idea behind it.

  2. Ditto what Kailana said! :)

    Kailana ~ I love your name!

  3. I've got to find the movie, then! I was going to just buy myself a copy if I could locate it this weekend, but that was a no go. Maybe the library will have it.

    Incidentally, I've just updated my review because I thought it was pretty weak and I was way too tired when I wrote it, last night. :)

  4. I had a student last year, who's father's motto is this movie. He bought lunch for our entire staff and faculty, maybe 60 people, at Christmas. When our principal asked him why he said, "I just want to pay it forward." I'll never forget it.

    My parents always said to me, "To whom much is given, much is expected." To that extent, I try (often failing miserably) to be as loving as possible.


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