William Sleator, Author . Amulet $16.95 (298p) ISBN 978-0-8109-9356-3

Sleator (House of Stairs ; Hell Phone ) misses the mark with a dystopian near-future thriller that takes the doctrine of “No Child Left Behind” doctrine to extremes. The eponymous test (it “not only left kids, it got rid of them”) is the all-important XCAS, and to prepare for it, students learn nothing except how to take tests; however, those who fail it cannot go to college and are barred from high-paying jobs. These have-nots are literally stuck in traffic, spinning their wheels for hours before they can reach any useful destination. Luckily Ann Forrest, the feisty heroine, can walk to and from school. When her do-gooder father, a home health aid, aggravates Mr. Warren, the mega-rich owner of the housing project where Mr. Forrest works, the Warrens send a minion on a motorcycle to attack Ann. Meanwhile Ann discovers that the Warrens also own the company that publishes the XCAS. Coincidences pile up and overload the plot: Lep, a Thai immigrant who works for the Warrens, has proof of their corruption and will do anything for Ann, who is also his classmate; a newspaper reporter just happens to witness Ann’s attack; etc. Stiffly executed and obvious in its conclusions, this is more premise than story. Ages 12-up. (Mar.)

Reviewed on: 03/10/2008
Release date: 03/01/2008
Genre: Children's
Paperback - 320 pages - 978-0-8109-8989-4
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