When 14-year-old Teddy is classified as troublesome, disrespectful and defiant of authority, his despised stepfather sends him off to St. Ignatius Academy for Boys, an isolated Roman Catholic boarding school.
St. Iggy's is run by priests who ruthlessly enforce discipline through intimidation and abuse. Narrator Teddy befriends the wisecracking, Wordsworth-loving Cooper. The boys use their wits and humor to cope, but the endless beatings and humiliations take their toll, especially on the fragile Cooper. He reaches his breaking point when he becomes the victim of Father Prince, a pedophile. Teddy watches helplessly as Cooper withdraws into his own private nightmare, and Prince targets Teddy himself as his next victim. The only positive adult relationship the boys have at school is with the janitor, who takes them to his farmhouse outside of town on Saturdays to enjoy a brief period of normalcy. The priests are either bullies or predators; even Brother Joe, who seems sympathetic to Teddy, betrays his trust. Although set in a well-realized 1959, Vasey's brisk, sharply written, riveting narrative transcends any time period.
A vivid, disturbing and all-too-real topical story. (Historical fiction. 14 & up)