This debut author, who has two teenage sons of his own, is an English teacher at a Wellington high school.
Gr 8 Up-New Zealander Hamish Graham is in his third institution-this time for violent offenders. Not only has he attacked other youth, but he also has attacked staff and a therapist. From a "good" family, Hamish could be labeled a genius and/or a sociopath; he has no qualms about his violent behavior, and, in fact, he elaborately and convincingly justifies it. The book alternates chapters between staff meetings to discuss Hamish and his lengthy journal entries. The journal provides insight into the 14-year-old's take on staff, group homes, his past, and international history. Obsessed with the normalcy of violence, Hamish studies and writes about leaders such as Alexander the Great and Maori chief Te Rauparaha, and wishes he had been born into a warrior society. What he doesn't expect is to start to care about a staff member. When he escapes the facility on an extreme mission of his own design that will either kill him or provide him with what he's always wanted, the book picks up speed. A lengthy glossary of New Zealand English and Maori terms and information about the country's history and culture are included. This first novel is for those "special readers"-the smart and antisocial ones-like Hamish himself.-Amy Cheney, Alameda County Library, Oakland, CA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Hamish Graham is 14 years old and in his fourth juvenile detention home for violent behavior-including what would have been manslaughter if he'd been old enough for jail. Hamish is confident, intelligent, and hardly sympathetic, but as the book progresses, readers see there is a method to what is not exactly madness. Shifting mainly between Hamish's journal entries and heated conversations among staffers about him, debut novelist Wright reveals that the genesis of Hamish's actions lies with society. Where is the moral distinction between Hamish's experiments on animals and those done by medical researchers? And how, Hamish asks, would his hero Alexander the Great, "probably responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths," be thought of today? Set in New Zealand, where it was published in 2007, Wright's novel is clever and biting, a tragedy of society's failure to deal with kids like Hamish and a satire of society's winking condemnations of violence. Hamish's actions can be revolting, despite his justifications, but he still draws empathy as a product of the environment at large. Hardly a comfortable book to read, but a gripping one. Ages 14-up. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.