THE SHADOW CLUB by Neal Shusterman


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A series of practical jokes takes an ugly turn and nearly ends in tragedy--in a contrived but scary first novel. Jared can't beat classmate Austin in a race, which might be tolerable if Austin didn't gloat; and Cheryl's cousin Rebecca outshines her wherever she excels. Tired of feeling second best, the two recruit five similarly oppressed teen-agers, and all together they plot revenge. Since ""not a single kid in the Shadow Club has ever done anything bad and there wasn't a single delinquent in the bunch,"" no one suspects them. Initially, the practical jokes are mild--a snake in a lunch box, photocopies of diary pages made public--and the club members are beside themselves with glee. Then a more destructive round of pranks--not planned by the club--begins: an aquarium blows up, bicycle brakes are sabotaged, and Austin is badly injured. Sure that they are being framed, Jared suspects Tyson McGaw, a troubled loner. In irrational fear, club members beat and humiliate McGaw to force a confession--and then discover, to their horror, that they are themselves the culprits, each acting secretly. Here the plot takes a morally convenient turn: when Jared rushes to apologize, he finds McGaw attempting a fiery suicide, and effects a dramatic rescue; they become friends, though Jared is motivated mostly by guilt and pity. When the true story comes out, the repentant club members have plenty of music to face. Every reader who has felt resentment will identify with these young people, their anger, and their terror. The conclusion may be implausible, but the story as a whole is powerful and disturbing.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1988
ISBN: 0142300942
Page count: 183pp
Publisher: Little, Brown