Peeling Back Fear


Joan Bauer’s Peeled opens on a sleepy apple growing town in New York. The biggest news in town is the sudden sickness and subsequent replacement of the local beauty pageant winner–until the alleged haunting of Ludlow house makes headlines. Enter Hildy Biddle, a high school journalist with a passion for sniffing out the truth. A passion inherited from her late father.

As the local newspaper turns to sensationalism and fear mongering to sell copies, Hildy and her high school paper learn the value–and danger–of publishing the facts. The story is ripe with apple punnery and has light undertones of faith, while the cast is punctuated with a gruff ex-journalist and a Polish woman who stood up to a corrupt government.

There was a time when I, like Hildy, thought I wanted to be a journalist. After a lot of thought, reading, talking to journalists, and a semester on my college’s newspaper, I think Hildy is better suited to it than I am. While I love the writing and interviewing, I am less passionate about chasing leads and pulling all-nighters to make a deadline. Freelance feature writing might be more my style. Call me a “puff writer.” It is what it is.

That said, I admire Hildy. She’s dedicated, persistent, and a good reporter. Plus, she’s brave. I had one controversial piece in my college paper and–while thrilling–it was exhausting. The director of residence life just about had a fit when he read it. (In my defense, I’m not sure how thoroughly he read it. I went out of my way to make him look good.) Hildy, meanwhile, blazes forward–despite threats–to expose a story that’s bigger than any Apple Blossom Queen. It takes a very special person to do that, even after high school.

We can’t all be Howie Carr, but Hildy might just grow up to rival him.


Didn’t get that reference? Go pick up The Brothers Bulger. Then we can talk about terrifying journalism.

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