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OUT OF SHADOWS by Jason Wallace Kirkus Star


by Jason Wallace

Age Range: 14 & up

Pub Date: April 15th, 2011
ISBN: 978-0-8234-2342-2
Publisher: Holiday House

A boarding-school story set in the aftermath of the Rhodesian Civil War examines evil from all sides and provides no easy answers. The Haven School for boys is anything but for narrator Robert Jacklin. When the boy arrives from England at 13, the son of a liberal intellectual attached to the British Embassy, he initially makes friends with one of the school's few black students, but he quickly learns that safety and acceptance are among the school's white elite. Over the course of the next five years he changes from likable milquetoast into a thug's accessory, understanding and hating but choosing to ignore his moral compromise. Wallace, in his debut, draws on his own childhood in post-revolutionary Zimbabwe to inform this grimly magnetic snapshot of petty evil. In many regards, it's a classic boarding-school novel, full of A Separate Peace–like inevitability; narrator Robert is liberal with "had I but known" statements foreshadowing some kind of doom. But as Robert's mentor in brutality becomes ever more unhinged, the tension ratchets up and the book turns into a first-rate, surprisingly believable thriller. In its portrayal of race relations in a wounded country as well as of the ugly power dynamics of a community of adolescent boys, this novel excels, bringing readers up to the grim, uncertain present with mastery. (Historical fiction. 14 & up)