Doing Time Online by Jan Siebold

doing time online

Reading level: 4.1
Lexile: 510
Genre: Realistic fiction
ELL-Friendly: Yes
Library recommendation: Elementary school

Goodreads summary:

Twelve-year-old Mitchell got involved with the wrong kid this past summer, and the prank they played led to an elderly woman’s injury. His “sentence” is to chat online with a nursing home resident twice a week for the next month. Mitch isn’t thrilled at first, but soon he has a new friend–Wootie Hayes–who helps him face the truth.

I’m not sure what I was thinking when I bought this book. Maybe I thought there was greatness in the pages to redeem the cover. Or maybe I tried to see past the incorrect use of bracketing. Either way, I can’t say that I made a great decision. The book isn’t terrible, and it could definitely be loved by elementary-aged kiddos (see reading level), but I’m not sure if it’s got much of a place in a middle school class.

To begin with, the book is outdated. Published in 2002, online chatting was just becoming a “thing,” and it was obviously the coolest when Siebold wrote this story. Next, the conflict is over so quickly, and Mitchell is such a good kid that he doesn’t really need any convincing to do the right thing.

Doing Time Online is well-written, and Mitchell’s voice comes out well, but I think the story is so much about teaching a lesson (do the right thing) that there’s not much of a chance to get to know and love the characters.

Because it’s written simply and has a simple message, it might be a good book for middle school/lower high school ELLs if they’re familiar with online chatting. Do today’s kids even know what instant messaging is?? :0

Doing Time Online is my thirty-fifth book of the 2014 TBR Pile Reading Challenge hosted by Bookish.

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