cover image THE PACK


Elisa Carbone, . . Viking, $15.99 (176pp) ISBN 978-0-670-03619-6

Exploring well-publicized social issues—violence at high schools, cliques, white supremacist groups—Carbone's (Stealing Freedom) novel juggles a number of themes, with mixed results. Becky, the 15-year-old narrator, initially shrinks from the new kid, Akhil, a heavily scarred, dark-skinned boy with a British accent who disturbs both his teachers and classmates. But Becky's best friend, Omar, is fascinated with Akhil, and soon Becky is, too—especially after he confides that he is the subject of a top-secret study at the National Institutes of Health. Cementing the bond among the three is their outraged discovery of white supremacist propaganda belonging to Kyle, a repugnant upperclassman who, joyriding two years earlier, ran down Becky's younger brother and caused him irreparable spinal damage. Making use of Akhil's uncanny intelligence and breaking more than a few laws, the three get hold of Kyle's notebook and find his "hit list," which includes Akhil (for the color of his skin), Omar ("half-breed"), Becky ("race mixer") and even her brother ("gimp"). How can they convince the authorities that they have, as Akhil puts it, "stumbled upon the plans for a massacre"? The twist here is Akhil's secret: he was raised by wolves in India, and as a result has developed a wolf's keen senses. Kids intrigued by Julie of the Wolves and stories of "wild" children may enjoy this development; others may feel short-changed by the late emergence of so far-fetched a premise in an otherwise realistic book. Ages 12-up. (Apr.)