Book Review: The Wave by Todd Strasser

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Title: The Wave

Author: Todd Strasser

Genre: Young Adult/ Realistic Fiction

Number of Pages: 138

Rating: C

Recommended?: No



Ben Ross is a well-liked high school history teacher who prefers the hands-on approach to pop quizzes and textbooks. One day he shows his students some disturbing footage of the Holocaust, and he decides to do an experiment and see if he can create an simulated experience of living in a dictatorship for his students, as a kind of response to the teens who said they couldn’t believe that German citizens didn’t stand up against Hitler and the Nazis. Ben starts rounding up the kids in a militaristic style and makes them part of ‘the wave,’ inundating them so hugely that they begin to lose sight of their free will. Initially most of them think it’s a lot of fun, but what starts as a game gives rise to the students’ darker natures.


I remember the German film adaptation of this novel being okay, but nothing special. I hoped this would prove to be a thought-provoking experience, but instead it came off as cheesy and the writing was extremely bland. It felt like something a teenager could have written, the prose lacked energy and the characters were painfully generic and paper-thin. Laurie, the only kid in the class who immediately sense the ‘game”s dangerous potential, is about as nondescript as a character can get.


It’s crazy that this book is based on a real incident but there must have been a lot more to it than the story suggests, because the way it’s presented seems puerile, with things falling apart almost immediately and the brats drinking the Kool-Aid in roughly the amount of time it takes to snap your fingers. There’s a bit of insight offered into why the students are attracted to Ben’s experiment, but otherwise it seems like it’s missing the context required for things to really make sense. I suppose Ben Ross is supposed to be a sympathetic character but he just comes off as a total moron. The message that could be taken from this story seems to be that Ben should have listened to his wife before trying to see if he could make his students start behaving like Nazis for a class project.