Monday, July 12, 2004

My Travel Reading

In twelve plus hours of travel I only read one and a half books. How lame is that?

The one I finished in the car was Target by Kathleen Jeffrie Johnson, which has been named a Best Book for Young Adults by the American Library Association. A best book for 2004, by the way, which means I met my goal of reading something very currant.

Well, Target is sort of a Speak for guys. It's about a teenage boy dealing with the aftermath of having been raped by two strange men who attacked him on the street. He's devastated by the experience, of course, and is consumed with anxiety because he's afraid that somehow he did something that made him a "target." On top of that, he was so stunned by what was happening to him that he didn't put up a fight at the time of the attack, even though he was a big kid. This leads the investigating cop and the reporter who covers the story to suggest that he didn't really object or was having some kind of conflict with a male lover. (He was seriously beaten, by the way.) The emergency room doctor is repulsed by what happened to him and his parents are ashamed. He can barely speak or eat, and is clearly wasting away.

This is an interesting setup. However, a series of improbable events leads to the conclusion. He changes schools and happens to meet a wiseguy African American kid who takes an interest in him as well as an overweight girl and a gay boy. The connections just don't seem very likely.

Plus, this is the 21st Century. It seems unlikely that so many of the adults who should have been helping him--police, doctor, parents--would have such unenlightened attitudes. One or two, maybe. But everyone? Having the adults shunning their responsibilities toward the main character makes it possible for the kids in his life to take over, of course. Still, it seems like an artificial situation.

Grady, the main character, is suffering horribly and readers ought to feel for him. But it's hard to believe that someone in such bad shape would be ignored by all the seemingly decent, middle class adults around him.

Target is a readable but not believable book for older teen readers.


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