Francine Prose, Author, After Prose, Author . HarperCollins/Cotler, $15.99 (336p) ISBN 978-0-06-008081-5

This novel set in the near future offers a chilling examination of controlling forces undermining individual rights. After a shooting takes place at Pleasant Valley, a Massachusetts high school, it seems reasonable that extra security precautions should be implemented at neighboring Central High. However, Tom Bishop and his "Smart Jock" friends grow uneasy as Central High's rules (and punishments for breaking them) become more and more extreme. Tom reluctantly cooperates with the stricter dress code (which, for example, prohibits students from wearing anything red). He also puts up with routine backpack checks, random locker searches and periodic urine tests in order to avoid getting suspended, or worse, being sent to Operation Turnaround, where "kids check in, and they don't check out." The sinister clinical psychologist Dr. Willner, who has usurped their beloved principal, finally pushes the narrator beyond his tolerance limit when he asks Tom to throw a game against Pleasant Valley to raise the spirits of its grieving students. No matter what action Tom takes, he realizes that he has much to lose—and discovers that other classmates have faced fatal consequences. In her first novel for young adults, Prose succeeds in keeping suspense high and manages, for the most part, to connect shocking events to a reality familiar to most teens. Her introduction of a science-fiction thread seems chillingly plausible (Dr. Willard uses e-mails to brainwash the teens' parents). This drama raises all-too-relevant questions about the fine line between safety as a means of protection versus encroachment on individual rights and free will. Sure to spur heated discussions. Ages 10-up. (Apr.)

Reviewed on: 02/24/2003
Release date: 02/01/2003
Genre: Children's
Prebound-Glued - 352 pages - 978-0-613-99775-1
Paperback - 330 pages - 978-0-06-008083-9
Prebound-Glued - 330 pages - 978-0-7569-6314-9
Library Binding - 336 pages - 978-0-06-008082-2
Prebound-Other - 978-0-606-30687-4
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