cover image Boot Camp

Boot Camp

Todd Strasser, . . S&S, $15.99 (235pp) ISBN 978-1-4169-0848-7

I n his latest novel, Strasser (Can't Get There from Here ) delivers an indictment of boot camps used to control unruly teenagers. Following a middle-of-night abduction, 15-year-old Garrett Durrell finds himself being driven to an unknown location in upstate New York. Upon his arrival at Lake Harmony, he is told that his parents have paid for his stay at the facility, “a highly structured boarding school specializing in intensive behavior modification,” until he learns to act like a respectful son. While most camp attendees are there because of problems with drugs or violent behavior, Garrett's high-powered parents have enrolled him largely because he refuses to stop dating Sabrina—his former math teacher, eight years his senior. The staff is authorized to use any force necessary to alter the students' negative behaviors; this can include Temporary Isolation (24 hours of lying face down on the floor of a concrete cell), being shackled outdoors overnight, and a blaring drone of propaganda during meals. Additionally, students report on each others' infractions and abuse those who are making little progress. Unwilling to renounce his love for Sabrina, Garrett befriends two students who have devised an escape plan, and the trio flees north to Canada. Strasser paints his protagonist as heroic, sympathetic and rational (“The product Lake Harmony delivers is the child you always knew you had... not the one you got stuck with”), and when he is ultimately broken—bodily and spiritually—the tragedy is all the more profound. Strasser offers no easy answers, and nimbly navigates a host of moral gray areas. Ages 12-up. (May)