A ripped-from-the-headlines YA about the real US phenomenon of boot camps for supposedly troubled teenagers.

In real life, parents can hire people to kidnap their children and lock them up for any period of time until the kid turns eighteen. Unless the teenager can prove child abuse, they have no legal recourse; however, since the teenagers typically have no access to the outside world while they’re at these camps, they have no way to report abuse. There have been a number of cases in which teenagers have died at these camps without repercussions for the people who killed them,, from untreated illnesses, heatstroke, or being beaten or smothered. Every now and then, it pops up in a newspaper article, and then everyone forgets about it. If this bothers you and you are American, I suggest that you write your political representative to have these things closely monitored or shut down.

The novel, however, has big problems. It effectively milks the inherent drama of the situation – teenage genius Garrett is sent to an abusive boot camp, where he plots with other teenagers to escape – but makes a big mistake involving the set-up, and has an ending which falls flat.

The problem I had with the set-up is that the reason the hero is there is such a hot-button topic in its own right that it distracts from the rest of the story - especially since the text never acknowledges that it's a hot button.

Garrett is chucked into boot camp by his one-note rich bitch mother because, while in high school, he had an affair with a female teacher who was eight years older than him. It’s unclear exactly how old Garrett is supposed to be, but if a reference to him being unable to drive was supposed to be true rather than a joke, he was fifteen and his teacher was twenty-three.

This isn’t a case of “Yeah, they met in a teaching situation, but they're the same age so it's a bit of a technicality,” this is creepy child abuse between an adult teacher and a high school student. Seriously, think of fifteen-year-old boys you know now, and imagine having sex with them when you were twenty-three and their high school teacher. Or don’t. ICK.

This story would work if Garrett hadn’t been involved in anything wrong at all (like, he was gay or just rebellious), or if he had been committing crimes. Either would keep the story focused on "kid trapped in abusive boot camp." But making him a victim when he doesn’t think he was a victim, and by never having anybody ever point out that adults molesting young teenagers is not okay and that the adult teacher was wrong, made me read the entire book trying to figure out if the author didn’t see anything wrong with it either, or if there would be a big reveal, or what. It was a huge distraction, and in fact, nobody ever calls out the teacher. ICK.

Read more... )

Come to think of it, I'm not sure I've ever liked a book which concluded with an ironic epilogue.


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