From School Library Journal
Grade 9 Up—For years, the all-male student body at Caramoor Academy has held an underground tradition of bestowing a secret master key to the campus onto one "worthy" (read: mischievous) student each year. Emil Simon would never have gotten the key in the usual way, but when his older brother took off after their mother's death, he left the key behind. With his emotionally distant father away on business, Emil uses his after-hours access to the school grounds to create a private place for himself. Eventually, he forges a connection with the art teacher's daughter, who is also making clandestine use of the Caramoor property. Corrigan's plotting is occasionally sluggish, but Emil proves to be a fascinating central character. His flippant, defiant manner and casual attitude toward drugs, sex, and school conceal a deeply introspective person, lost in a conventional academic setting and alternately missing and resenting his more popular brother. Those who can handle Emil's frank narrative and raw language will find his almost brutal self-awareness and growing confidence touching.—Christi Voth, Parker Library, CO
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*Starred Review* Sixteen-year-old Emil lives alone with his militaristic father after his mother dies and his charismatic older brother, Ethan, disappears. While searching Ethan's room for drugs and clues to his whereabouts, Emil discovers that Ethan had the master key to their elite boys' school. According to school tradition, one senior holds the key, pulls off a tremendous prank, and anonymously passes the key to another student, who is expected to carry on the tradition the next year. Determined to fulfill Ethan's role, Emil sneaks into his school at night, looking for inspiration for a key-worthy prank. Instead, he finds a girl, Jade, working in the art studio. He and Jade begin talking, tiptoe around each other with their secrets, and finally develop a relationship. When Emil comes to shocking revelations about his mother's death and Ethan's sudden departure, Jade helps Emil cope with the earth-shattering news. Following two books in verse, Corrigan's first prose novel shines with language that authentically echoes teen speech patterns and slang (including some swearing). The tone and complex male protagonist will remind readers of Markus Zusack's Printz Honor Book, I Am the Messenger (2005). This similarly memorable novel will capture older teens with its realistic, fully developed characters who come of age on the page. Booth, Heather Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved