cover image Ratface


Garry Disher. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH), $14.95 (185pp) ISBN 978-0-395-69451-0

Readers hoping for another The Bamboo Flute, the Australian author's American debut, will not find it here. In place of the lyricism of that novel, Disher offers up a highly wrought, dystopian tale of two teenagers who escape from the clutches of a supremacist organization. Max and Christina, believing themselves orphaned, live with adoptive parents on a remote farm owned by the cultish White League. When a reporter disturbs the status quo by presenting them with unsettling facts about the cult's revered Leader, as well as the possibility that their real parents might still be alive, a crisis of confidence ensues. The balance is finally tipped when the teens' ``uncle''-a fanatical senior League official whom they dub ``Ratface''-shows up at the farm with a new child, a seven-year-old boy who has clearly been kidnapped. Max and Christina flee, determined to return their new ``brother'' to his real parents-and perhaps search for their own. Disher narrowly avoids melodrama and, while the characters, especially the adults, are stereotypical and one-dimensional, his story achieves moments of heart-pounding suspense. Ages 10-up. (Oct.)