Twelve-year-old Jack’s world is rocked by the discovery of a copy of the Secret Parent’s Handbook in a neighbor’s trash.
Young readers raised like Jack, his crush Maggie, and his best bud Mike, constantly hearing such lines as “People are starving in India,” “You want your face to freeze like that?” and the arbitrary “Because I said so” from their parents, will be slapping their foreheads—because of course there must be a standardized manual. And as the trio soon discovers, there’s not only a printed volume, but a secret government Parents Agency charged with keeping it out of the hands of kids—and a kid Resistance dedicated to assembling the text bit by salvaged bit. Moreover, it soon becomes clear that if their newly aware offspring depart from the standardized scenarios in the book, parents don’t have a clue what to do next and so can be easily manipulated. Is it any wonder then that all three white children and their families are climactically kidnapped by stun-gun–wielding men in black and slated for re-education camps? Or that masked Resistance ninjas should come bursting in to the rescue? At this point Benton’s invention collapses, and the best resolution he can contrive is an unlikely détente. Still, the premise, backed up by quoted extracts from the Handbook, will be a game-changer for many.
Eerily plausible, at least until the close. (Fiction? 10-13)