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Bifocal Paperback – August 16, 2008

4 out of 5 stars 38 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Two award-winning Canadian authors team up to tell a story of race prejudice that divides a high school after Azeem, a Muslim student, is arrested following a bomb plot. The story is told in the alternating voices of two students: studious Haroon, Azeem’s academic-bowl teammate; and Jay, a popular football player. Neither boy seems to be aware of much prejudice in the school, although Jay describes the seating in the cafeteria as “divided in as many subgroups as tables.” As Azeem’s trial progresses, vandalism and racial slurs escalate, and the narrators are jolted by the actions and attitudes of people they thought they knew. Their individual struggles to understand the flaring prejudice and their journeys toward self-discovery are subtle and authentic. Secondary characters, such as Haroon’s sister, who wears the abaya, and biracial Steve, raise interesting side issues but are less well developed than Haroon and Jay. This is a story that will leave readers looking at their schools and themselves with new eyes. Grades 7-10. --Lynn Rutan --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Review


"This thought-provoking novel works extremely well as an examination of the dangers of racism and the redeeming value of tolerance."

-- Quill & Quire

"This is a powerful and important book, one that will speak to modern teen readers in a way that they will undoubtedly hear and respond to. . . Without falling into didacticism, Ellis and Walters thoughtfully depict a full range of reactions and widely-held beliefs and offer readers the opportunity to see not only the vastly different experiences that shape Jay and Haroon's understanding of events, but also how so many others feel and respond to events like 9/11 and the mere threat of anything similar. . . Bifocal should, and will, enjoy a wide readership and would make an excellent choice for class, or group, discussion."

Highly Recommended.

-- CM Magazine

"This is a story that will leave readers looking at their schools and themselves with new eyes."

-- Booklist

"Bifocal is perhaps the bravest, most important, engaging and enraging, most satisfying work of fiction for young Canadians in a long while. Also, the most timely. It will make you think, render you angry and saddened, and leave you hopeful and reflective."

-- The Hamilton Spectator

"This novel is about our differences and how we treat one another. It deals with contemporary issues and could well become important reading in today's high schools."

-- Winnipeg Free Press

"(Bifocal) is a powerful look at a community divided along racial lines."

-- The Canadian Press

"Together, Ellis and Walters created two vivid characters and put them in a fictional high school that bristles with racial tension."

-- The Toronto Star

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 12 and up
  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Fitzhenry & Whiteside; 1 edition (August 16, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1554550629
  • ISBN-13: 978-1554550623
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,451,273 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By C.E. VINE VOICE on October 31, 2007
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Lets get one thing out of the way. this is a novel aimed at the 9-15 year old crowd. Its centered in a high school in Canada and concerns racial tensions. Now that we've gotten that out of the way, the book is actually pretty good. Its a nice presentation of a topic that has gotten lots and lots of media coverage lately. the battle between radical Islam extremists and the rest of the world is played out here on a much smaller scale. In a high school, just like the larger outside world, you have your groups. The "brown" kids (Arabic, Indian, Afghani, etc..) the Black kids, the Goths, the Emos, the Popular Preppies, and then the Jocks.
All of them meet in the cafeteria for lunch but they are still divided according to social status and for the most part, skin color.
The characters are pretty well written. Jay is the jock with a consience. A Christian who is not sure he can do what the others do. Haroon, the Afghani who is smart and quiet, reserved and just wants to live a quiet life of peace. Kevin, the quarterback who never backs down. Zana, Haroon's twin who is stubborn and convinced of her own convictions. And we have Julian, the kid who seems able to cross all the social boundaries and ties them all together nicely.
An incident happens at the school and it sparks feelings of hate and violence. Intolerance and harsh ideas abound i this book, but it serves as a mini-primer on what we face today. There are some racial comments in this book, but they all serve the purpose of advancing the story and showing how intolerance and ignorance make us sound uneducated.
All things aside, I cant give this book 5 stars, for a few reasons. One, the ending felt really really rushed. There was great build up, tensions were piling and then....it fizzled.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
In today's world, we never know when our lives are going to change at the drop of a hat. However, most of us don't expect for our very existences to be questioned, and especially not those of us who live fairly normal lives in typical small towns. But when an Islamic terrorist plot is uncovered in just such a place, two high school boys find their lives turned upside down and their values questioned, and they both must make life-altering choices as to how they are going to handle themselves.

Haroon is a Muslim who is studying for a chance to be on the school's Reach for the Top academic team, but his life undergoes a terrifying shift when he is mistakenly taken out of his classroom as part of the terrorist plot that is uncovered. Even though his identity is secured fairly quickly, Haroon finds that life's going to be different; others look at him differently based on his religion and the color of his skin, things he'd never before thought much about. Haroon tries to keep things as normal as possible, but it's difficult when his twin sister Zana decides that her way of dealing with Muslim prejudice is to don the veiled abaya that makes her even more identifiable.

Jay is a star football player in his first year at the local high school; he's a good student who is pleased to find himself accepted as part of the in crowd. His whole life is focused on football until the team captain begins to let his prejudices against those different from him show; Jay finds himself swept up into an incident that quickly grows out of control. What Jay decides to do to rectify the situation reveals his own character.

Told in chapters that alternate between Jay's and Haroon's first-person points of view, this is an exceptional novel that speaks directly to today's headlines.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I thought that this would be an interesting book to read since it is the same story told from the viewpoint of two different teenagers with their parts written by two different award-winning authors. The two narrators are Jay, an all-American white football player, and Haroon, an Afghani-American kid who is on the school's knowledge quiz team. Without even reading a summary of the book, it's easy to figure out that the book is going to be a story about racial prejudices that will end with some sort of understanding between two culturally and religiously different people.

The dialog between the characters was very convincing. It took me back to my high school years when what people did and said are so important but often so petty. The cafeteria and school yard are full of various cliques of people who isolate themselves from others that are different from them. Specifically, in this novel, the place in the schoolyard where the Muslim students hang out is called "Brown Town". There's, of course, the jock who thinks he's so cool making up degrading names and jokes for people in the other groups. And, of course, there are the kids that go along with him because they don't feel like they have a choice.

There were some interesting, adventurous parts in this novel like when the football players all run up to the roof during a lockdown and when they run around town decorating people's lawns and houses with toilet paper, eggs, and vegetables. However, there were also some parts of the book that fell short of my expectations. For example, there was an episode that happened in class with a character named Hadi who seemed to come out of nowhere and supposedly did something that the teacher was going to contact the police about.
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