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Project X (Alex Awards (Awards)) Hardcover – January 27, 2004

ISBN-13: 978-1400040711 ISBN-10: 140004071X Edition: 1st

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Product Details

  • Series: Alex Awards (Awards)
  • Hardcover: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf; 1 edition (January 27, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 140004071X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400040711
  • Product Dimensions: 8.7 x 5.9 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.5 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (71 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,901,305 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This engrossing novel gives the overworked subject of Columbine-style school massacres an unusually subtle and affecting treatment. Shepard (Nosferatu; Battling Against Castro; etc.) follows the travails of Edwin Hanratty, a misfit stuck at the bottom of the ruthless eighth-grade pecking order ("It's a big shitpile with everybody shitting downward so you want to be as high as possible"). Beaten up and mocked by bullies, disliked by his teachers and at loggerheads with his exasperated parents, he lives a nightmare of loneliness and anxiety with only his even more isolated friend, Flake, to cling to. Together, the two boys feed each other's wounded, sullen disgruntlement and edge toward vengeance as the only salve for their overwhelming sense of impotence and humiliation. Shepard makes these miserable characters sympathetic and even funny (" `Suck my dog's chew toy, how's that?' he goes. `Your mother's still busy with it,' I tell him"), but avoids easy sociological explanations for their predicament. The two boys, who have only their alienation to cling to, are often snotty and off-putting, and bat away all helping hands; there are also hints of deeper pathologies. With a pitch-perfect feel for the flat, sardonic, "I-go-then-he-goes" language of disaffected teens, Shepard explores how, in two disturbed minds, the normal adolescent obsessions with competence, mastery and status take on disastrous proportions, and the search for social belonging becomes a life-or-death matter.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Bookmarks Magazine

What would possess two boys to kill their classmates? Shepard doesn't provide any straightforward answers, but he expertly imagines the mindset of one miserable and wounded adolescent. It's an eye-opening portrait. The narrator is in turns funny, sympathetic, and rude, but he's not obsessed with video games or music by Marilyn Manson. And he still feels homicidal. Most reviewers compared this short novel to DBC Pierre's Vernon God Little, the 2003 Booker Prize-winner on the same subject. And in every case, critics dubbed Project X the far superior work. It's pitch-perfect, bold, and not easily forgotten--particularly if you have teenagers.

Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc.

More About the Author

Jim Shepard was born in Bridgeport, Connecticut, and is the author of six novels, including most recently Project X, and four story collections, including the forthcoming You Think That's Bad (March 2011). His third collection, Like You'd Understand, Anyway, was a finalist for the National Book Award and won The Story Prize. Project X won the 2005 Library of Congress/Massachusetts Book Award for Fiction, as well as the ALEX Award from the American Library Association. His short fiction has appeared in, among other magazines, Harper's, McSweeney's, The Paris Review, The Atlantic Monthly, Esquire, DoubleTake, the New Yorker, Granta, Zoetrope: All-Story, and Playboy, and he was a columnist on film for the magazine The Believer. Four of his stories have been chosen for the Best American Short Stories and one for a Pushcart Prize. He's won an Artists' Grant from the Massachusetts Cultural Council and a Guggenheim Fellowship. He teaches at Williams College and lives in Williamstown with his wife Karen, his three children, and two beagles.

Customer Reviews

I found out on the second page and started the book over.
Michelle A. Cope
This book reads very quickly but, as I mentioned already, it jumps around a lot like someone with ADD so some people might not like it.
M. Kelley
This book is very well-written, with a gripping plot and a perfect pitch in the voice and mannerisms of an awkward boy.
Amy Senk

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

24 of 27 people found the following review helpful By A. Ross HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on July 27, 2004
Format: Hardcover
In the few years since the Columbine massacre, there have been a slew of novels (including the 2003 Booker Prize winner, Vernon God Little) attempting to understand what triggers such horrifying acts. Shepard's is the first of these I've read, and it's hard to imagine a superior version existing. This story of two boys plotting revenge on a school that has shunned them is a nuanced and subtle work that perfectly captures the speech and emotions of its protagonists while shying away from offering easy answers. Edwin and his only friend, Flake, are not metal/goth listening, animal torturing, trench coat-wearing, video-game junkie, grumpy teens. Teetering between adolescence and teenagerdom, they are the perpetual targets, not ultra geeky or ultra feeble or ultra nerdy, just enough of each to make them a pair of misfits worth picking on.

Told from Edwin's perspective, the novel depicts junior high as an endless series of insults and defeats, sometimes culminating in a bloody beating. Adding insult to injury, teachers never give Edwin the benefit of the doubt. This has led many reviews to write that the teachers pick on him or dislike him, which is actually not true. It would be very easy to portray the teachers as monsters from Edwin's viewpoint, but in fact, the teachers are often shown reaching out and making at least clumsy attempts to try and understand what his problems are. But because he is sometimes in the wrong, and can often be sarcastic or disrespectful, it's also easy to see why he is sometimes unjustly punished. And this is part of the complexity of the novel that makes it work-the teachers' actions do contribute to Edwin's misery, but not by design.

Similarly, Edwin's home life is hardly the dysfunctional den of horrors one might expect.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Jennifer on December 19, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Why do adults lose their capacity to see reality especially from a kid's perspective? Jim Shepard does not lose this capacity in anyway during Project X. This book captures what kids think but 99.9% of them do not do. Of course tortured kids think these things when being bullied by insane selfish Kings or Queens of the school, how simple life would be without these type of people. But you have to keep in mind that this type of bullying is what makes a lot of great people great. What is crueler what Edwin and Flake do or what others do to them that drives them to it? Not for innocent or closed minded people who think the earth is a great rosy place. This book is reality. Jennifer, a 27 year old kid.
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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 24, 2004
Format: Hardcover
To Richie the Reviewer: Project X is not Young Adult Fiction. It is a work of literary fiction about young adults, and with all due respect, there is a big difference. After reading your review, I question whether or not you've ever been a teenager (and whether you really read this book). Is it surprising that the teenage narrator of this book continually feels misunderstood by the adults in his life? And does it really shock you that some schools have Draconian disciplinary policies? I was a junior in public high school when Columbine happened, and believe me, everything changed: Students were constantly monitored, dissent was not tolerated, suspensions and expulsions were handed out for seemingly insignificant things (junior high students who pointed their index finger like it was a gun, high school girls who carried Tylenol in their purses).
Project X takes a chance that other school shooting stories don't: It shows the two perpetrators as human-- as loving and terrified and confused children. And that, I believe, is what makes this story so compelling and ultimately rewarding.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Brian W. Milligan on March 15, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Shepard's novel is more frightening in its depiction of the normal, every day life of two terribly alienated teens, rather than its depiction of a Columbinelike school massacre. Yes, we know going into the book that the two main characters are sliding inevitably toward a school shooting. But what truly captures our attention is their listless, violent lives and their failed attempts to either connect with peers or even see any hopes of ever doing so. We see painful glimpses of what the narrator's life could be if he could simply pull himself out of his downward spiral - he does well in an art project and in English class. Yet the constant bullying, and his own angry reaction to it are making him a virtual puppet for his less-worthy and far more dangerous best friend, Flake. The novel simply cannot be put down, and is best read on a dark night while you're lying alone on the sofa. Shepard gets into the mindset of these lost characters, and his prose is haunting. Ironically, I'm saving the book for my two boys. I want them to read it when they become teens so they can see the terrible costs of alienation, and how easy it is to slip down the wrong path. Pick up Project X. You won't put it down till you're done.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By S. Michael Wilson on March 17, 2009
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
In the aftermath of the Columbine High School Shootings in 1999, countless reporters and commentators repeated similar versions of the same phrase over and over again: "People are wondering how something like this could happen."

Jim Shepard knows.

Project X is one of the few books that has ever honestly attempted to get into the minds of people like Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, or the other teenager gunmen who later patterned themselves after the Columbine incident.

Most seem to take comfort in explanations that support preexisting phobias and prejudices; violent video games and movies, popular music, poor parenting skills, drug abuse, white supremacy, and even homosexuality have often been blamed for driving these kids to violence. Project X refuses to fall into this simple-minded trap. Edwin and Flake, the two teenage characters in the book, are portrayed as the complex personalities that people really are, and not the easily categorized stereotypes that people tend to see each other as.

The protagonists in Shepard's book aren't simply misanthropic loners by choice. They are bullied and harassed on a daily basis, in and out of school, by people they know and complete strangers, and by adults as well as teenagers. The toll of this repeated physical abuse, egged on by their inability (both physically and emotionally) to fight back, forces them to withdraw from society. But they aren't presented as pure victims of an uncaring system. Their self-imposed alienation and inability to explain their situation to someone who could assist them, coupled with increasingly anti-social and reactionary behavior, just makes them easier targets and escalates the situation even further.
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