Dundurn  2015


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.

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