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Henry Smith’s father has made a mantra out of running from problems: “If you build your house far enough away from Trouble, then Trouble will never find you.” Sure enough, the Smiths live in a mansion on Boston’s North Shore that has housed the family for 300 years. But when Henry’s older brother and prep-school rugby star, Franklin, is accidentally run down by a Cambodian classmate, Chay Chouan, and lies in a coma, Henry must reconcile the perfect older-brother image with the abusive, racist jock he might really have been. Meanwhile, the town erupts into an improbably monotonal furor against the nearby immigrant community. Henry and a pal take a road trip, meet Chay, and undergo the requisite catharsis and closure along the way. Schmidt, coming off his Newbery Honour for The Wednesday Wars (2007) here focuses on the serious stuff, but handles teen levity well enough to keep readers involved. Unfortunately, this changeup mostly functions to divert from the emotional weight of loss, anger, and reconciliation, rather than to drive it home. Grades 7-10. --Ian Chipman --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Gr 7-10-Nothing is as it seems when Trouble arrives in varied and symbolic ways for two families and two communities. Franklin Smith, the arrogant scion of an aristocratic New England family, is accidentally struck while running and subsequently dies. The blame is accepted by a classmate, a Cambodian immigrant from a nearby town. When legal technicalities prevent Chay Chouan from being jailed, the perceived miscarriage of justice reverberates through idyllic Blythbury-by-the-Sea. Franklin's younger brother, Henry, becomes determined to climb Mount Katahdin, a feat that Franklin had coldly suggested might prove that Henry had guts. Henry sets out hitchhiking for the mountain with best friend Sanborn. Somewhat improbably they are picked up by Chay, who has been expelled by his father and is driving the truck that killed Franklin. Their symbolic journey predictably includes moments of danger, self-discovery, and reconciliation, fortunately leavened by the humorously ironic Sanborn. Complex structure allows revelations into the character of Chay, child of a violent refugee camp, unwanted product of rape, lover of poetry, and protector of Henry's sister (in a Romeo-and-Juliet twist). Teeming with plot elements, some of which may seem too purposeful, and richly veined with social and psychological crosscurrents, this story may be seen as allegorical in its intent and representation. Nevertheless it contains Schmidt's eloquent language and compelling characters, as well as compassionate examinations of the passage from childhood to adulthood and of the patterns of common experience that mark and unite us as humans.-Kate McClelland, Perrot Memorial Library, Old Greenwich, CT Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.

A tale of racism and stereotypes by a New York Times Bestselling author. Contains Schmidt's eloquent language and compelling characters.A" School Library Journal, starred review

Tautly constructed, metaphorically rich, emotionally gripping and seductively told,Schmidt's (The Wednesday Wars) novel opens in the 300-year-old ancestral home of Henry Smith, whose father has raised him to believe that "if you build your house far enough away from Trouble, then Trouble will never find you." With such an opening, it is inevitable that Trouble does find the aristocratic Smiths: Henry's older brother, Franklin, is critically injured by a truck. A Cambodian refugee named Chay, who attends the same school as Franklin, acknowledges responsibility, but over the course of Chay's trial it occurs, to Henry at least, that it was Franklin who sought Trouble: the racism he directed toward Chay specifically and Cambodian immigrants generally has been so widely shared in the community that no one challenged it. Twin sequences of events plunge the Smiths and Chay into further tragedy, also revealing the ravages of Chay's childhood under the Khmer Rouge. At the same time, a storm exposes a charred slave ship long buried on the Smiths' private beach: it emerges that their house has been close to Trouble all along. For all the fine crafting, the novel takes a disturbingly broad-brush approach to racism. Characters are either thuggish or willfully blind or saintly, easily pegged on a moral scale--and therefore untrue to life. Ages 12-up. (Apr.) Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.

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