Garrett Durrell is a child prodigy. He is reading unassisted by the age of three. He excels in school and is placed in all of the advanced classes. Ga...moreGarrett Durrell is a child prodigy. He is reading unassisted by the age of three. He excels in school and is placed in all of the advanced classes. Garrett is also tall for his age, towering head-and-shoulders above his peers. His height, superior intelligence, and high maturity level make him seem much older than he really is. At the age of fifteen he falls in love for the first time. The only problem is that his love interest is eight years his senior.
Garrett's parents are wealthy and have a lot of social influence. They're embarrassed by their son's involvement with an older woman. When they forbid him from continuing in his relationship with Sabrina, he openly defies them. In an attempt to reign in their son, the parents elect to have him kidnapped and enrolled in a wilderness boot camp.
As Garrett is introduced to Lake Harmony, he instantly discovers that life there is anything but harmonious. He is suddenly immersed in an unthinkably abusive environment where he is held for indeterminate periods in solitary confinement, beaten, starved, and tortured. The system that Lake Harmony embraces is one where the inmates are first stripped down by use of horrendous humiliation techniques and then built back up with brainwashing.
Garrett is far more intelligent than his captors had anticipated, and he proves to be a tough case. As hard as the staff tries to reform him, he appears all the more resilient. He refuses to stop believing in his love for Sabrina. He refuses to become another blind follower. His resistence, though, may be the very thing that ultimately leads to his demise. If he does not show major signs of improvement, he may be trapped at Lake Harmony indefinitely, or at least until he's eighteen.
Author Todd Strasser remarkably delivers one of the most impressive young adult novels I've ever been privileged to experience. The book was perfectly edited, without a single noticable grammatical or spelling error. There were no run-on sentences, fragments, split infinitives, or incorrect pronoun cases used. In this day and age, such perfection is rare and nearly obsolete. He also maintains a very focused point-of view which is delivered in the first-person narrative through the voice of the central character. He accurately sticks with the past-tense verb tense and craftily uses flashbacks and foreshadowing to present a very interesting and suspenseful drama.
In addition to the impeccable writing style, the story itself was extremely compelling. The narrative quickly drew the reader into the head of the protagonist and rapidly developed into a page-turning, exciting,yet believable thriller. Perhaps the most noteworthy characteristic of the story was the degree to which the subject matter was utterly disturbing. At times I felt almost unable to go on reading it, yet at the same time I couldn't stop myself.
I'm in awe of this author, and I recommend this story wholeheartedly. I'm certain that this is only the first of many of his books which I will read. My final analysis is this: Boot Camp is perfection!(less)
Taylor Adams is a sixteen-year old gay high school student who is head over heels in love with his first boyfriend Will. Unfortunately the joy that he...moreTaylor Adams is a sixteen-year old gay high school student who is head over heels in love with his first boyfriend Will. Unfortunately the joy that he feels about his first romance is not shared by his parents. They are devout, fundamentalist Christians, and they thus believe homosexuality to be an abomination. In an effort to cure Taylor of his homosexual proclivities, they elect to send their son to a six-week, faith-based, behavior-modification program called "Straight to God".
This is the second of author Robin Reardon's books that I've read, and I am quick to admit that she is an impressive story teller. Her ability to get inside the head of her gay male protagonist is remarkably realistic, and her development of complex yet likable characters creates an interesting and memorable read. In this particular story she uses a narrative arc to transform characters who initially appear to be a certain way but eventually are revealed to contradict this first impression.
Reardon also weaves together two extremely paradoxical viewpoints into a story which ultimately challenges the assumptions of both arguments. She craftily challenges fundamentalists to re-examine their condemnation of homosexuals, and she gently urges gays to try to understand the motives which fuel these harsh, fundamentalist judgements.
Although there were some plot elements which I did not find to be particularly plausible, I sincerely regard this book to be one of the best I have read in terms of its presentation of how people of faith choose to perceive sexual orientation. It certainly would be one of the first books that I would recommend to someone who is struggling to reconcile their faith with their affectional identity. It could also be immensely helpful to the religious family member of a gay person who has just come out to them.
I was most disturbed by the methodology that the program employed to brainwash and control its residents. One example is the use of what they referred to as the "safe zone" in which the inmate was required to remain mute for a period of hours or days. This prevented them from ever questioning authority or expressing any opposing opinion. It also created feelings of frustration and helplessness, quite the opposite of the "safe" atmosphere it was supposed to provide.
I was also a bit annoyed by the manner in which the religious establishment eventually evolved to a place of pseudo-acceptance of gay identity. They ultimately conclude that homosexuality "used" to be a sin, but it is not any more. This sort of rationalization does not explain why God would ever create someone to be gay in the first place. And their insistence upon protecting the "sanctity" of marriage by disallowing gays to marry is also contradictory in that they continue to condemn sexual relations outside of marriage.
Perhaps the important reality is that the process of reexamination had begun. At least some of the fundamentalists were able to allow themselves to rethink their staid opinions and challenge their previous assumptions.
Over all, I loved the book, and do not hesitate to recommend it. I'm anxiously waiting to see what future work this author has in store for us. Five stars. (less)