Wilberforce

H.S. Cross. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $27 (464p) ISBN 978-0-374-29010-8
In her debut, Cross spins the scruffy narrative of Morgan Wilberforce, a 17-year-old student—and troublemaker—at St. Stephen’s Academy, a small British private school, in 1926. When he’s not sneaking away to the local pub, Wilberforce is injuring himself on the rugby pitch, battling fellow students, and pining for the affection of both male and female peers. Amid the growing chaos, Wilberforce begins a romantic tryst with fellow student Charles Spaulding, yet when one of Spaulding’s other lovers learns of the relationship, a student ends up dead in a tragic accident, leaving Wilberforce as a shell of his former self. Now hallucinating good and evil versions of himself, the young man slowly marches down a destructive path of sexual escapades and violence. John Grieves, a history teacher at the academy, attempts to help Wilberforce through his perpetual plights, yet the school has more than one firebrand to oversee: a group of disgruntled third-year students are fed up and begin setting fires and gumming up campus locks. Though Cross succeeds in creating a multilayered drama, one of the major perspectives of the book abruptly vanishes, leaving the reader to wonder why it was included in the first place. In addition, the boys of the academy frequently act with a naïveté that feels far younger than their years. Still, readers will find enough angst and drama to carry them through this story of sentimental education. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 07/27/2015
Release date: 09/15/2015
Ebook - 978-0-374-71342-3
Paperback - 464 pages - 978-1-250-09713-2
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