Saturday, November 10, 2007

Boot Camp by Todd Strasser

Heavy hitting in content, mental, physical, and emotional violence. Garrett chooses to be with the woman he loves, disobeying his parents - something his high performance, image conscious parents won't tolerate. They send their 15 year old son to a boot camp to reform his ways, his thoughts, his attitudes.

NPR has done some pieces on boot camps, deaths and abuse that are concealed in the camps where parents voluntarily send their children - spending thousands of dollars, agreeing to confidentiality and willful ignorance or convenient denial of the abuse inflicted on their progeny, seeking obedience and capitulation.
(Boot camps have been in the news enough that, in my opinion, parents choose not to know. This is not something Todd Strasser included in his book.)

The book is important in raising awareness about boot camps although a non-fiction piece with Strasser's talented writing might have greater impact for social change. He captures dialog, emotion, effects of bullying, intimidation and systematic tearing apart of a person's soul.

Boot Camp is a powerful book, but not Thumbs Up award winner. I'll put spoiler remarks in the comments section as courtesy for those yet to read. I vote NAY.


At November 10, 2007 at 10:38 AM , Blogger kathy said...

I continue my comments with spoiler content...

**** spoiler *****

I thought I copied the text I deleted from my post to publish here to avoid spoiler content on the front page - but the computer won't give it back. rats.... I'll do my best to replicate.

Some things bothered me about the book. Strasser has Garrett tell us how Garrett loves Sabrina, but doesn't show us. I am interested to know about Sabrina's struggle with their relationship, the age difference, the rebellion against his parents. She would have known about statutory rape and the legal gamble they were taking, and the power that Garrett's parents could wield. So I didn't completely buy into their relationship.

Garrett's mom played the absent parent role his entire life. Yet, she's the one who claims the role of heroine and rescuer at the end. "You don't have to call me ma'am. I'm your mother. I'm here to take you out of this place." Garrett was exhibiting seemingly desired attitude and behavior outcomes of boot camp when she arrives by calling her ma'am and being respectful. Where's the mother's character or relationship shift? (accepting the sudden change at face value requires the suspension of disbelief that his parents wouldn't know he would be physically, mentally and emotionally coerced...)

I didn't entirely buy into Garrett's relationship with his parents - we didn't have a lot of dialog, mostly Garrett telling us without a lot of detail to support his perspective. His teacher suggested he be moved ahead a grade to help deal with Garrett skipping school because he was bored and unchallenged by the work. His mother refused because she wanted him to be with his peers - and that's it? And his absences from class started when he was 8? I feel like there would have been more intervention.

I think I wanted this book to be more or I wouldn't have written so much or been so critical. It is an upsetting book, and I am debriefing here. Another book I found quite powerful about a different incarceration and parental neglect is Jude by Kate Morgenroth. Jude had greater impact with Jude's futile but implicit faith that his parents (mother and stepfather) had his best interest at heart and would ultimately believe in him. The physical violence was hard to read in both books, and I just didn't feel like Boot Camp had enough other content to convey the exploration of choices teens and parents made to get to boot camp.

The mob mentality, peer execution of persecution, and systematic bullying, intimidation and brain washing in the book are well conveyed and worthy of serious discussion among students, parents and teachers.

Very powerful, but still a NAY for the award.

At December 29, 2007 at 6:57 PM , Blogger Ms. Zandra said...

Yes, this was a powerful book. I found it to be a very realistic look into boot camps meant to "reform" wayward teens. Strasser is a very descriptive writer and I found myself feeling uncomfortable reading about the torture methods being used on Garrett.
Although I thought the look into boot camps was realistic, I don't feel the same way about Garrett's relationship with his teacher. Like Kathy, I would have loved to hear about her thoughts and feelings. And I totally did not like the ending with Garrett's mother appearing to save him. She was always absent and work always came first, but now she wants to rescue him?
Anyway, I enjoyed this book, but I just don't think its an award winner. NAY


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