Tripped in class, mooned in the hall, cola poured through the slats in his locker, spitballs stuck in his hair--how much more can Paul Richmond take at his super-snobby private school, expensive Gate-Bicknell Christian? Paul is there free because his mom works in the guidance office, but that fact makes him an instant outcast, his only friend a funny-looking, independent girl named Binky. Even worse off is David Blanco, whose mom is a cafeteria lady and whose father is the janitor. The jocks hound him unmercifully, even killing his dog. When Paul goes to David's house to offer sympathy, David rejects him angrily, saying "You'll be next." Binky, too, tries to explain the cruelty of the rich kids who surround them, but Paul yearns to be accepted anyway. So when cool, elegant, and charismatic Charlie Good asks for his help in computer lab, Paul is eager to comply, and later, when Charlie and his henchmen, Meat and St. John, come for him in the night for a game of mailbox baseball, Paul willingly does the bashing. Gradually he is accepted at school as part of Charlie's group, but for a price: having to hack into the school computers to change Charlie's D in biology. When David Blanco kills himself and the school simply ignores it, Paul is momentarily taken aback, especially when he learns that David had been Charlie's ally last year. But then Charlie reveals his real plan, for which everything else has been preliminary, and Paul has his last chance to say no.
Alex Flinn, whose Breathing Underwater earned high praise, does tribute to the great Robert Cormier in this dark and brilliant novel about the high price of acquiescence to evil. (Ages 14 and older) --Patty Campbell [via]