From School Library Journal
Grade 6-10-A school-shooting incident in nearby Pleasant Valley causes Tom's high school administrators to be worried about a ripple effect. A crisis counselor is hired and a watchdog atmosphere grows as the teens' privileges rapidly disappear. Tom and his sophomore classmates are annoyed but not overly concerned about the new security restrictions until they notice eerie disappearances of friends who fail to conform, including Tom's two best friends. The random drug tests, backpack searches, parental e-mail, and dress codes soon expand into mind-controlling daily assemblies, book censorship, and camps for "behavior" problems. After a tip from a Pleasant Valley basketball player, Tom is convinced that students everywhere are being sent away and hopes his father hasn't also been brainwashed via the e-mails from the school authorities. The pace picks up as Tom and friend Becca are caught trying to alert their fellow students to the menacing counselor and know that their lives are at risk. There is suspense in the threat, though readers never learn what has happened to those who disappeared, except for one student who "died." A prosaic style and simple dialogue provide reluctant readers with an opportunity to enjoy a lengthy, frightening story. More mature readers interested in school-violence stories might prefer Joyce Carol Oates's Big Mouth & Ugly Girl (HarperCollins, 2002).Vicki Reutter, Cazenovia High School, NY
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Following a Columbine-like massacre at a nearby school, the students at Central High find their world turned upside down. The arrival of a "grief counselor" brings a new era of repression--no cell phones, no reading Catcher in the Rye
, no hanging out at the mall. Even worse, students guilty of breaking the rules have begun to disappear--supposedly to a kind of detention camp called Operation Turnaround. Nobody ever comes back. Esteemed adult author Prose wants to make a political statement about the gradual process by which we lose personal freedom, but she runs into trouble. Caught somewhere between allegory, dystopian fantasy, and YA problem novel, her book never finds a home for itself. There are moments of real terror (the finale feels like Hitchcock's The Birds
), but many of the best fantasy elements--brainwashing the kids' parents with e-mail--seem patently ridiculous in a realistic context. Yet, there is considerable appeal: the suspense builds effectively, and the archetypal conflict--good-hearted kids versus an evil principal--is always a crowd pleaser. Bill OttCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved