Family dynamics, Fiction, Haddix-Margaret Peterson, Young Adult

#516 Don’t You Dare Read This Mrs. Dunphrey by Margaret Peterson Haddix

Don't You Dare Read This Mrs. Dunphrey by Margaret Peterson HaddixDon’t You Dare Read This Mrs. Dunphrey by Margaret Peterson Haddix

Being a teenager can be more difficult than many adults can imagine. Sometimes teenagers just need an outlet for all of the things they’re dealing with.

Tish has been assigned to write a journal for her English class. She thinks it’s a stupid idea. Mrs. Dunphrey, the teacher, says that she will not read any entry marked “Do not read.” Tish marks most of her entries do not read, just to test Mrs. Dunphrey. When it appears that Mrs. Dunphrey has not read her entries, she uses the journal to tell about her problems.

Tish comes from a broken house. Her mother is there, but she seems broken. She often calls out of work. She often doesn’t function. She pines after their father, but their father isn’t around. She has a little brother named Matt. Tish works a part-time job to provide clothes for she and her brother. She also wants to buy him a Nintendo for Christmas. Her mom will not provide those things.

Tish tells of being sexually harassed by her boss at her job. She talks about how her dad comes back and things get bad. At one point Tish’s mother leaves and Tish is left trying to provide for she and her brother. Things go awful and Tish doesn’t have anywhere to turn. She finally tells Mrs. Dunphrey to read her journal.

What I liked

This book is about a family that has a lot of problems. That’s a good thing because there are kids who come from families with the same kind of problems and they feel as if they’re alone. If they know they’re not alone and that other people go through the same things, then things are a little better for them. This is also a book that shows that children can turn to the adults in their lives for help and they might just be surprised at how much help they get.

Tish is a very responsible teenager, still a little stupid as teenagers are, but not as stupid as most. I liked reading a story with a responsible teenager with a good head on her shoulders.

What I didn’t like

Look, I’m sorry, what is wrong with Tish’s mother?! There is something terribly wrong with her for her to allow her children to live in such a state. I DO NOT care what is going on in your life that you feel you can ignore your children and let things fall apart over their heads, you’re not supposed to be doing that. You’re not supposed to be letting things fall apart. You’re not supposed to be neglecting your children. You’re not supposed to let your spouse beat your children. You’re not supposed to let your spouse beat you. That shows a terrible example to your children. If you find yourself in a place where you see that bad things are happening, you leave. You leave with everything you can fit in the car or you leave with just the clothes on your back, but you leave. You stay at a friend’s house. You stay at a relative’s house. You stay in a hotel. You stay in a shelter, but you do not stay in that situation. ANYTHING, is better than that situation.

Above all a mother is supposed to protect her children. That’s pretty much the definition of being a mother. If you let someone else treat them badly and you know about it, you’re failing as a mother. If you can stop it, but you let it go on, you’re failing.

Sometimes you have to do something because it’s the right thing for other people, but you may not be able to realize it’s also the right thing for you as well. You can’t see far enough ahead to know whether it’s right for you or not, but you know it will ease the suffering of others. You do it, especially if it will ease the suffering of your children.


I thought this book was a great story, even if it is a bit infuriating.

Weigh in

What do you think would have happened to Tish if Mrs. Dunphrey hadn’t read her journal?

Do you believe that Tish’s mother should have had the opportunity to keep her children? Why or why not?


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