A light tale of rebellious eighth graders set in a Savannah Catholic junior high school in 1974, written by a young Georgian who died of cancer as he was completing this, his only novel. Francis Doyle is part of a ``gang'' of fellow classmates and altar boys who are from troubled homes and are all too smart and too creative for their conservative school. Besides stealing from their parents' liquor cabinets and experimenting with pot, the gang rebels by creating blasphemous comic books. They're led by the undersized Tim O'Brien, who furthers everyone's education with banned books like William Blake's The Marriage of Heaven and Hell. Since they are about to graduate, the young outlaws come up with what they consider a fitting farewell, Sodom vs. Gomorrah '74, an epic comic book that shows the nuns and priests of Blessed Heart in wicked embraces. When the book is found by one of the priests, the gang is threatened with expulsion. Tim suggests that if they do something really drastic, say kidnapping a bobcat from a local nature preserve and releasing it in the school, the priests would forget about their relatively minor indiscretion. Complicating matters for Francis is that he has fallen in love for the first time, with a seventh grader with an equally turbulent past. But Francis goes along with his buddies as they try to capture a bobcat, with predictably tragic results. Fuhrman is especially successful in capturing the awkwardness of first love and the fierce, blind loyalties of pubescent boys. Despite these moments, little sustains the novel besides the young-adult plot and a simple theme of ``authority is bad.'' The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys shows that Fuhrman had much promise, and it is unfortunate that we will never have the joy of seeing his talents bloom.
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