Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Boot Camp by Todd Strasser

I walk away from this book feeling conflicted because I'm angry yet I don't think I'm angry for the right reason. Just to let you know, there are spoilers so don't read the third paragraph if you don't want to see the ending...

Boot Camp is, of course, about one teen's experience in boot camp. Garrett was sent to Lake Harmony because his parents didn't like him having intimate relations with his teacher who was 8 years older than him. Besides that affair, he was a hard working student and a good kid who thought he had the right to love whomever he wanted. Lake Harmony promised to change him into an obedient son, no matter what the cost, which means physical abuse is allowed. Feeling he's done nothing wrong, Garrett resists the work of boot camp, leading to severe mental and physical treatment. Eventually it gets to the point that he and two other inmates escape - these two had been there for years and didn't believe they'd survive another winter while Garrett's defiant attitude would trap him at Lake Harmony forever. Of course their escape plan is only partially successful and Garrett ends up back at Lake Harmony where things are worse than before.

Believe it or not, I'm not entirely angry at the treatment at Lake Harmony. Yes, I was outraged and wanted to punch some of the characters, but I went into the book knowing that they use mental abuse and I guess in some way I was already expecting the physical abuse. Still, part of me was skeptical about all the physical that they did. I've heard of them pushing the kids till they pass out, but how can they employees legally get away with beating them up. Sure I can see the attacks in the bathroom between inmates and looking the other way, but I was a little skeptical of beating them up in a way that left not bruises or marks. Is that even possible? Then again, maybe it happens but that doesn't have me bothered as much as the way it ended. *Spoiler* I know a happy ending is too much to hope for, but to have the system win, it was wrong. What's the sense of the book if you're trying to get awareness for the corrupt system, if, in the end, it works like it's supposed to. The program promised a reformed child, and that's what they got in the end, so how is what they're doing wrong, especially when the kid will argue he deserved it? It seems as though the whole book was just a waste of time if he becomes brain washed anyways. Maybe that's the whole point of the book, but it left me more angry at the book than the system.

In the end, I'm left uncertain about how I feel about this book. I would expect this book to have me outraged at boot camps, not the author.

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