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*****= An all-time favorite
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by Francine Prose

Reviewed August 16, 2003.
Joanne Cotler Books (HarperCollins), New York, 2003.  330 pages.
Available at Sembach Library (JF PRO).

Another school shooting has happened at Pleasant Valley High School.  At nearby Central High School, Tom Bishop and his friends don’t realize how much their lives are going to change.

The principal brings in a Grief and Crisis Counselor, Dr. Willner.  Dr. Willner institutes new rules, including a Zero Tolerance policy for drugs or firearms.  Students are also not allowed to wear flip-flops, sunglasses, chains, studded accessories, or the color red.  On the first day, a popular girl continues to wear a red ribbon in honor of her brother, who died of AIDS.  She is suspended for two days.  Only she doesn’t come back.

More rules are added every day.  The kids must submit to random backpack searches, locker searches and drug testing.  Their parents get e-mails every night telling the new rules.  The teachers seem eerily in harmony with the changes.  Usually strong-willed parents actually allow their children to be packed off to Operation Turnaround.  More people disappear.  Something is very wrong.

Both my fifteen-year-old son and my husband read this and recommended that I read it.  It’s a well-told, suspenseful story.  Unlike Feed, by M. T. Anderson, you didn’t quite get the feeling that this scenario could actually happen, perhaps because a motive for the big evil plot was never really given.  The author did make it believable that people would gradually give up liberties in the interest of safety.  People allowed their children’s possessions to be searched in hope of saving them from killers, just as now people are giving up the right to have their library or bookstore records private, in the hope of saving themselves from terrorists.  And the book raises the question, How far will we let that go?
  Review of another book by Francine Prose:
Reading Like a Writer

Copyright © 2003 Sondra Eklund.  All rights reserved.

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