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About the Author

Walter Dean Myers was the New York Times bestselling author of Monster, the winner of the first Michael L. Printz Award; a former National Ambassador for Young People's Literature; and an inaugural NYC Literary Honoree. Myers received every single major award in the field of children's literature. He was the author of two Newbery Honor Books and six Coretta Scott King Awardees. He was the recipient of the Margaret A. Edwards Award for lifetime achievement in writing for young adults, a three-time National Book Award Finalist, as well as the first-ever recipient of the Coretta Scott King-Virginia Hamilton Award for Lifetime Achievement.

Reviews

Gr 8 Up-Six months after a deadly shooting at a suburban high school, educators and psychological and criminal experts compile their interviews and analyses to assess any ongoing threat in the school environment. Through these documents, Myers skillfully tells the story of the shooting, its precipitating causes, and the aftermath for the shooter's closest friends. As in Robert Cormier's The Rag and Bone Shop (Delacorte, 2001), readers are made aware of the realistic and insidious biases different interrogators bring to their investigations. Seventeen-year-old Cameron Porter, the deceased shooter's closest friend, expresses himself one way when being debriefed by a psychologist and necessarily comes across differently when questioned by an FBI agent. Readers also are shown how such diverse types of inquiry are committed to paper with subtle but telling differences, as one interviewer asks that the transcriber retain Porter's pauses while the other directs the transcriber specifically to omit them. Other characters include the boys' one female friend, and, ultimately, Len, the shooter himself, through the clearly disturbed pages of his diary in the months leading up to the "incident." Myers uses no narrative frame other than the documents themselves and excels in providing clear and distinct voices through these interviews, notes, and reports; only the newspaper items lack a genuine ring. In addition to young adults who will find this story intensely readable as well as intense, adults working with teens should read and discuss the questions and implications that the tale reveals.-Francisca Goldsmith, Berkeley Public Library, CA Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

In this chilling cautionary tale, Myers revisits the themes of his Monster and Scorpions in a slightly more detached structure, but the outcome is every bit as moving. The novel opens with what serves as a cover sheet to a "Threat Analysis Report," which, in its mission statement, makes mention of "the tragic events of last April." Gradually, readers discover that Len Gray killed a fellow high school student before taking his own life. Through transcripts of various adults questioning Len's friends, Cameron Porter and Carla Evans, readers get to form their own opinions about how much these two may or may not have contributed to the events of that day. Myers sculpts every character here in three dimensions, including the interviewers. Dr. Ewings, the psychologist, shows compassion toward Cameron, and therefore the 17-year-old reveals to him the most intimate details of his friendship with Len and also his home life. Cameron's interview with FBI Special Agent Victoria Lash, on the other hand, puts Cameron on the defensive. When she pointedly questions Cameron about what she calls his "money-conscious" parents, he tells the agent, "They make more than most people. They make more than you do. Does that bother you?" to which she replies, "I'm white and you're black, does that bother you?" Here, no one is completely innocent and no one is entirely to blame. A myriad of small occurrences add up to the tragic outcome: blind spots on the part of teachers and coaches, parents who are consumed with their own lives and not considering how their actions have an impact on their children. Myers takes no shortcuts: all three teens are smart (readers get to know Len through his journal entries, handwritten in a somewhat deranged-looking scrawl and included as an appendix); all three consider themselves outsiders. Readers will find themselves racing through the pages, then turning back to pore over the details once more. Ages 12-up. (May) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

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