The Wave

“infobox Book “
name The Wave
image caption Cover of The Wave
author Todd Strasser
country America
language English language
genre(s) Social Issues
publisher Laurel Leaf Books
release date 1981
media type Paperback
pages 138

Character Summaries

Laurie Saunders

Laurie is the editor-in-chief of The Gordon Grapevine. She is small, petite, and doesn’t smoke. She does have a habit of chewing pens. She is a senior. At first she is for, but later turns against, The Wave.

Amy Smith

Amy is Laurie’s best friend. It is later revealed that she is jealous of Laurie. She likes The Wave because it makes her feel equal to others.

Ben Ross

Ben Ross is a lively and enthusiastic teacher, although some teacher criticize him for his lack of professional propriety because he doesn’t wear a suit. He shows the students a movie about the Holocaust on the first day in his class. He is the one who starts The Wave.

David Collins

David is a football player and Laurie’s boyfriend. He is planning on becoming an engineer.

Robert Billings

Robert is known as the “class loser,”and is in the shadow of his more successful brother Jeff Billings who majors in medicine while playing Minor League Baseball.

Christy Ross

Christy is the wife of Ben Ross and a music teacher who likes to play tennis. She is generally opposed to The Wave, and convinces Ben Ross to stop it.

Principal Owens

Owens is at first curious about The Wave, but later is completely against it.

Mr. Gamboni

A boring French teacher.


A student in Mr. Ross’s class who incessantly makes fun of Robert Billings.

Brian Ammon

Gordon High School’s quarterback who worries about beating Clarkstown.

Carl Block

A comical investigative reporter.

Alex Cooper

A comical music reviewer.


A ballet dancer who agrees with Mr. Ross that discipline is important to success.


A football player.


A junior football player who has always wanted Brian’s position as quarterback.  Later, he gets in fight with Brian.

Mr. Saunders

Laurie’s dad. He works at a semi-conductor company and loves golf.

Mrs. Saunders

Laurie’s mom. She ran the county’s League of Women Voters. She is always able to tell whether
Laurie has a problem, and is a “worry-wart.”

George Snyder

Feels that he’s part of something great when part of The Wave.

Norm Schille

The coach of the football team, also a biology teacher.


The Grapevine’s fashion reviewer.

Chapter Summaries

Chapter One

The novel starts with Laurie in the Grapevine office. No one is there. The period is almost over, so she decides to leave. On the way, she sees her friend, Amy, in Mr. Gabondi’s class. The bell rings and they leave.

The perspective changes to Ben Ross, who is trying to thread film. He is appalled with the grades his students have been getting, mostly low B’s and C’s, and the lack of completed homework assignments. He does not like students to arrive late and not turn in homework.

Chapter  Two

Ben Ross shows a movie of the Holocaust to his students, it shows emaciated Jews, and inhumane cruelty of the Nazis. Mr. Ross explains how the Nazis started their administration, how the “Final Solution of the Jews” worked, and the crematoriums. Amy Smith asks why the Germans killed the Jews. However, Mr. Ross cannot give an answer that will satisfy the students.

Chapter Three

The perspective changes to David Collins, Laurie, and Amy who are eating lunch. The see Robert Billings eat at a table and other girls walk away. Amy and Brian come; Amy and Laurie leave to work on The Grapevine Newspaper.

Amy and Laurie talk about David in the newspaper room. Laurie becomes aware of how much she and Amy compete with each other.

Carl Block and Alex Cooper barge in and jokingly reprimand them for locking the door and for Amy smoking a cigarette. They don’t have their article for the next edition done.

Chapter Four

The perspective changes to Ben Ross. He goes home and reads books about Nazis that he got from the library. He is disappointed by the fact that he could not give adequate answers to his students. He decides on starting an experiment that would re-create the experience of Nazism in his class.

Christy Ross comes home at eleven o’clock and sees Ben still up.

Chapter Five

Ben Ross starts his experiment, he writes “STRENGTH THROUGH DISCIPLINE” on the board. He first starts by improving the students’ posture. There is already a difference in behavior as they start to stop making jokes and reacting to them.

Next, he has the students race into their seats after they run out of them. He times them, and they get successively faster each time. During this, Robert Billings gradually assumes a leadership role as he helps the students get faster, and is used as a model for proper posture and appropriate behavior.

Mr. Ross lastly teaches the students to answer questions properly, and the class goes on to answer questions about the Holocaust until the bell rings. Laurie Saunders is the first and only person to answer in the improper form
On their way out of class, Brad, David, Brian, Laurie, and Amy talk about how the class was. At first, several kids do not take this very seriously. However, David, who wants to help his football team, and Robert, who finally broke free of his loser status, do.

The perspective changes to Ben Ross at home. He talks to his wife about how changed his students were, and how they stayed after the bell.

Chapter Six

Ben Ross is late to class the next day. He finds all the students in proper posture. He decides to continue with the experiment. He adds “COMMUNITY” to the motto. The new motto becomes “Strength through discipline, strength through community”.

Ross has the students recite this. Laurie at first does not but succumbs to peer pressure. Ross calls the movement The Wave; he makes the symbol and the salute. He forces the students to do the salute.

The perspective changes to David and Eric in football practice. David spreads The Wave to the football team, thinking that it will unite them and make them better at football. They steadfastly agree.

Chapter Seven

The perspective changes to Laurie and her parents. Laurie describes The Wave to them. Mrs. Saunders disapproves it, stating that it was too militaristic. However, Mr. Saunders feels that it is okay, because it helps the kids pay attention.
The view changes to Ben Ross and his wife. They have a conversation on The Wave; Christy Ross is generally incredulous and opposed to The Wave, while Ben constantly tries to defend it.

Chapter Eight

David Collins and Laurie Saunders have a tradition of running into each other in the morning. This morning they get into a minor argument regarding whether The Wave is a good thing. David thinks it will help the football team, but Laurie is not so sure. She changes the subject.

When they get to Mr. Ross’s class, he is passing out Wave membership cards. He has the people with “x’s” on the back be monitors. He then adds another sentence to their motto. It now reads, “Strength through discipline, strength through community, strength through action.” He states that discipline and community is useless without action. He encourages them to recruit new members.

At the lunchroom, Laurie nervously speaks against The Wave. When Robert Billings counters, however, she takes it back.

Chapter Nine

The next day, Ben Ross notices that his class size is noticeably larger. He also notes that they are able to perform faster, and they cover more material; however, there is not much analysis, as if The Wave was getting rid of their sense of reasoning. Ross notes how Coach Schiller talked to him today and tries to figure out the cause of the spread of The Wave.

The perspective changes to Laurie inside the school publications office. Laurie and The Grapevine’s reporters are in an editorial meeting. They decide to write an article on The Wave.

Laurie goes home. Mrs. Saunders talks to Laurie about The Wave. She talked to Robert’s mom who described the change she saw in him. Laurie’s mom tells her not to be so affected by The Wave.

Laurie starts to have second thoughts on whether The Wave is a fad or not.

Chapter Ten

Principal Owens and Ben Ross discuss The Wave. Principal Owen does not want the movement to go too far, while Ross tries to defend it. The principal reminds Ross that the experiment is dealing with young, impressionable kids and should not be done to the extreme.

Chapter Eleven

Laurie goes to the publications office and finds a letter from an anonymous junior who was almost forced to join The Wave.

The perspective changes back to Ben as he leaves his meeting with Principal Owens. He sees students putting up posters and banners. Robert then asks Mr. Ross if he could be his bodyguard, to which Mr. Ross tentatively agrees.

Chapter Twelve

Laurie spots a fight between Brian Ammon and another person later to be identified as Deutsch. She bumps into David, who argues over The Wave. Laurie believes it is getting rid of the individuality of the people, while David states The Wave helps the school unify. Laurie states that David is too idealistic, while David counters that Laurie just does not like not being on top anymore. Laurie calls David stupid, and David breaks up with her.

Alex, Carl, and Laurie decide to publish a special edition of The Grapevine, which is going to be about The Wave.
The perspective changes to Laurie at home.

Mr. Saunders comes into her room and comments a fight after school. A Jewish person said something critical of The Wave and he was beaten up.

Chapter Thirteen

Laurie goes to the game on Saturday, and she wants to sit with Amy. However, she is stopped by Brad, who commands her to do The Wave salute before entering the bleachers. Brad actually does not want to make people salute, but the rest of The Wave forces him.

On Sunday afternoon, The Grapevine staff meets at Laurie’s house and makes the newspaper, which includes the letter from the anonymous junior and a report on the Jewish sophomore who was beaten up.

Laurie states that it runs against everything the country was founded on, getting rid of our Freedom of Speech and thought.

Chapter Fourteen

Laurie meets Amy in the library the next day to discuss the newspaper. Amy believes that Laurie is doing this just because of her fight with David. She states that the only reason Laurie is against it is that she was dethroned.

Copies began to circulate throughout the school. Ben Ross reads it and goes into the teacher’s lounge where he overhears Coach Schiller disparaging The Wave, stating it wasn’t worth a damn.

The perspective changes to David in the lunchroom. He cannot believe Laurie has published such an article. Robert states that she must be stopped, but David says that he can take care of her.

Chapter Fifteen

The perspective changes to Ben Ross in his home. Christy finds him reading books about Nazi history and tries to convince him to stop The Wave once and for all. She states that Principal Owens wants to see him tomorrow.

The perspective changes to the publications office where Laurie is cleaning up after the success party. After she left, she felt someone following her. Laurie ran out of the school, away from the footsteps.

The perspective changes to David, who spots Laurie walking. He tries to convince Laurie to stop destroying The Wave, but Laurie stated that it is harming people. David then throws Laurie to the ground. They then go to Ben Ross’s house.

Christy again tells Ross to end The Wave. She states that it is putting both their careers in danger. He then sees David and Laurie at his front door, again convincing him to stop.

Chapter Sixteen

The next day Ben meets with Principal Owens, who met with the Jewish person’s father, who turned out to be a rabbi who lived in Auschwitz for two years. Overall, he is infuriated. Ben Ross tells his plan to end the Wave and teach the students of its evils, and the Principal reluctantly agrees.

Ben Ross goes back to his history class and tells them that there will be an assembly after-school for Wave members. He stated that The Wave would meet their leader, the leader of the whole National Wave Youth Movement in the United States of America. David and Laurie try to stop him, but Ben Ross takes them to the principal’s office. On the way, he tells them that everything is going to be all right.

The principal lets them go after the day is over. David and Laurie get their books and decide to see this leader.

Chapter Seventeen

The perspective changes to the auditorium where the assembly is to be held. It is packed and all the doors are locked. Ben rolls out the T.V. and flips it to a blank channel. All around kids are confused. Laurie and David manage to get inside, and see the rest of the assembly. Ben Ross takes down the curtain, showing a video of Hitler.

“That is your leader”, he states. He states that they would be good fascists, but the fault is more on him as a leader than themselves. Nevertheless, he hopes the students learn from their mistake. The students leave one by one sadly. However, no one is affected as much as Robert Billings is. The book ends with Ben Ross starting to talk to him.

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