Scott Addison never set out to be a hero. But sometimes, no matter how hard you try, you can’t run away from your destiny. On the heels of his father’s death, Scott and his mother move from Iowa City, Iowa to the small Southern Illinois town of Meadowbrook.
Scott just wanted to blend in…to observe quietly…to be one of the kids. Unfortunately for Scott, his instincts, heart, and integrity took over on his first day at his new middle school. Scott stood up to and faced down three larger boys torturing a wiry little boy named Paul. No one should ever have to stand alone.
This simple act of kindness and chivalry put Scott in the midst of the conflict and on the receiving end of the bullies’ antics. When the hazing goes too far, Scott decides it is time to take a stand…no matter the cost. Of course that’s the price heroes must pay.
The Pact does a respectable job of pointing out the more under-the-radar aspects of bullying: why kids bully, what kinds of kids are more likely to get bullied, how standing up to bullies can turn them against you in ways you’d never anticipate, and how “victims” can inadvertently bully others. I was saddened by some of the things that happened to the boys in this book, but at the same time, I wasn’t surprised. I’ve worked with kids and know that this sort of thing goes on, but I wholeheartedly wish it didn’t.
The story includes lots of things that the target audience (I’m thinking middle school boys, primarily) should enjoy: magic and adventure (the boys play Warriors and Thieves — assumedly code for Dungeons and Dragons), sports (wrestling), danger (fights and playing chicken with a train), and even a bit about girls. These topics aren’t gratuitous, though; they provide insight into the characters’ personalities and motives. (Also, there’s a refreshing lack of technology within the pages of this book. The characters spend time on other hobbies, which is nice to see.)
It took a while for me to get into this book; the first half moves significantly slower than the second. However, as the tale progresses, interesting (and terrifying) things start to happen. I actually found myself gasping at the events once or twice, which is a good sign.
Would I recommend this book? To certain demographics, yes. I think this novel will be most enjoyed by boys (and perhaps also girls) the age of the protagonists (13-15). I also think that some parents and/or educators will enjoy reading a story that shows what their kids are going through. However, if you’re reading strictly for literary merit, this book may frustrate you. The language is repetitive at times and there are a good number of errors. At times, the words get in the way instead of easing the reader through the story. (This could be remedied with an in-depth round of proofreading and editing, and the book would be stronger for it.) There is a notable exception to this, though: one of the later Warriors and Thieves scenes is remarkably well done, transitioning smoothly from the game to reality and back again.
Here’s something else to note, something that I don’t at all consider a bad thing but that might raise some eyebrows. One of the characters, Scott, is a member of a Protestant church-going family. There’s a much greater focus on religion in this book than in many others out there, but it’s not done in a forceful way or in an attempt to convert young readers. In fact, I think it’s just the right amount. Some teens do attend church/synagogue/etc. with their families, and modern books for young readers seem to ignore that fact entirely — or run too far in the other direction and cram the religion down their throats. In The Pact, not all of the boys go to church, which is often the case in a group of friends. And the one boy that does is struggling to reconcile his own religious beliefs with those of his more-conservative youth pastor. I enjoyed reading about a character that was willing to listen to a sermon and digest it, looking to see how it fit into his own life. Although religious leaders are in positions of authority, they’re not always right, and this book examines that delicate situation in a very respectful light.
All in all: An honest look at adolescence and the struggles it entails. May appeal more to some than others, but can act as a springboard to some good conversations with kids going through this stuff.
Mitchell S Karnes was born in Kansas and spent his childhood in Illinois. He lives in Franklin, TN with his wife, Natalie, and five of their seven children, where he serves as the Pastor of Walker Baptist Church. He holds a Bachelor’s degree and three Master’s degrees.
Mitchell’s first novel, Crossing the Line, made the Southern Writer’s Guild’s “Must Read” list. His short stories include: “When Nothing Else Matters,” “A Family Portrait,” and “Grampa Charlie’s Ring.” He hopes to entertain, challenge, move and teach through each and every story. The Pact is just the beginning…the first book in a four-part series.
Tuesday, January 28th: Tiffany’s Bookshelf
Thursday, January 30th: Jorie Loves a Story
Monday, February 3rd: Patricia’s Wisdom
Wednesday, February 5th: You Can Read Me Anything
Monday, February 10th: Suko’s Notebook
Monday, February 10th: YA Reads
Wednesday, February 12th: Maureen’s Musings
Monday, February 17th: Seaside Book Nook
Tuesday, February 18th: The Things You Can Read
Wednesday, February 19th: Shelf Full of Books
Thursday, February 20th: Savings in Seconds