From School Library Journal
Gr 8 Up–This simple, engaging story opens with Shayne Blank sitting in a police station, about to give a murder confession. Hautman effectively employs flashback sequences and alternating narratives to enlighten readers as to the sequence of events that led to Shayne's dramatic revelation. When high school junior Mikey Martin finds himself the target of a sadistic bully, he gains an unlikely ally in the quiet and mysterious new kid, Shayne. Quirky, with a tendency to let his mouth get him in trouble, Mikey masks his insecurities by wearing suits to school and exuding false bravado. His troubles start when he throws away a bag of drugs forced on him for safekeeping by his sister's drug-dealing boyfriend. Consequently, Mikey is threatened with bodily injury unless he pays Jon $500 (the arbitrary replacement fee for the drugs). Shayne offers to help Mikey sort out his situation; unfortunately, Jon is an intransigent bully who refuses to listen to reason, resulting in several confrontations between him and Shayne that culminate in a violent showdown with shocking consequences. Hautman does a commendable job of handling tough issues such as bullying, domestic violence, and drug abuse, and he infuses tense situations with humor. In spite of a conclusion that feels too neat and somewhat forced, Blank Confession's deft and timely exploration of bullying will find an eager audience among teens searching for gripping, realistic fiction. Steer readers who appreciated Michael Harmon's Brutal (Knopf, 2009) and Courtney Summers's Some Girls Are (St. Martin's, 2010) to this novel.–Lalitha Nataraj, Chula Vista Public Library, CA. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
A 16-year-old kid named Shayne Blank walks into a police station and announces that he has killed someone. Detective Rawls, intrigued by Shayne’s calmness, allows the teen to lead him through the entire story, right up to the murder. These chapters, told from Rawls’ point of view, alternate with the backstory, told by Mikey, a perennially bullied, suit-wearing eleventh-grader who makes a bond with the new kid—Shayne—who Mikey describes as always “measuring, evaluating, computing.” Shayne also has jaw-dropping hand-to-hand combat skills, and soon both kids are unwillingly dragged into the drama of a teenage drug dealer. It’s a classic crime setup, but in Hautman’s hands, character comes first, and Mikey is better fleshed out than most protagonists. Shayne provides a different and unusual challenge: by definition, he is a mystery, something of a blank slate. He is more superhero than anything else, and an epilogue explanation may divide readers into those who appreciate Hautman’s finality and those who would have preferred not knowing the full truth. Grades 8-11. --Daniel Kraus