David A. Poulsen
  • Review
By – July 14, 2016

Andy Alamo” Crock­ett moves into a new school halfway through the year. As a 10th grad­er, he is des­per­ate­ly try­ing to find accep­tance among his peers. He has lim­it­ed social skills with both boys and girls so any accep­tance by either makes him deliri­ous with joy. So when a scruffy group of kids who call them­selves The Six” start to include him some of the time he latch­es onto them. He also has a girl­friend who rebuffs him when he push­es too hard for sex­u­al inti­ma­cy. He regrets his mis­takes but lacks the abil­i­ty to self-correct.

School has nev­er been stel­lar for him but when he meets Mr. Rezt­laff, his his­to­ry teacher, things start look­ing up. This is a man who makes his stu­dents eager for the next lec­ture, who remem­bers the name of each stu­dent in the school, who attends every ath­let­ic event to give young peo­ple his sup­port, who accepts and encour­ages each stu­dent in his class, and who uses inter­ac­tive teach­ing meth­ods to involve and motivate.

With­in this frame­work, the author weaves a com­plex plot that tests Alam­o’s integri­ty and his will­ing­ness to miss his chance to be part of The Six.” It stress­es the theme that what you see is not always what you get.” Even­tu­al­ly, the threads of the plot are pulled togeth­er and the read­er real­izes how anti-Semi­tism can destroy lives. Poulsen has a won­der­ful ear for teenage vocab­u­lary and speech pat­terns as well as a keen under­stand­ing of how young peo­ple’s inse­cu­ri­ty can affect their actions. He gives a clear pic­ture of how a per­son exert­ing pow­er and con­trol can manip­u­late oth­ers by giv­ing them the accep­tance for which they yearn.

A book about Holo­caust denial, this book is a sleep­er with a com­plex plot which will thor­ough­ly engage teenage read­ers. Holo­caust denial is a fact of our time mak­ing this a time­ly top­ic. The end­ing may push cred­i­bil­i­ty a bit but the intend­ed audi­ence will come away with an increased under­stand­ing of the chal­lenges that many of them face on a dai­ly basis and they will respond with inter­est to the moral dilem­ma that the main char­ac­ter faces.

High­ly rec­om­mend­ed for ages 12 – 15

Marge Kaplan is a retired Eng­lish as a Sec­ond Lan­guage teacher. She is a con­sul­tant for the children’s lit­er­a­ture group for the Roseville, MN school sys­tem and is a sto­ry­teller of Jew­ish tales.

Discussion Questions