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What's the story?
Miro is sixteen, and it's time for him to prove his manhood by killing for his cause. Miro has been raised and trained as a terrorist, knowing only his older brother and Artkin, his leader, as family. As part of a gang of terrorists, Miro helps capture a bus full of small children.
Kate, the seventeen-year-old temporary bus driver, does her best to calm the children as they wait in the heat for rescue. She hides a spare key to the bus, and when Miro temporarily steps off, she tries to drive the bus away, but the engine stalls.
Much of the story is told through the eyes of Ben, the general's son, whom the general sends to the terrorists with proof that their leader has been captured. But is it really Ben who's talking? A surprise ending reveals what has happened to Ben, and to his father.
Is it any good?
This dark tale of suspense and murder gains added complexity with a stunning psychological twist in the final chapter. Not all young readers will understand the surprise ending, but most will find the book extremely compelling and intriguing. On the surface, this appears to be a straightforward suspense story of good guys versus bad guys. But Robert Cormier examines the thinking of everyone involved. He depicts Miro as a real human being, not merely as evil or crazed. The 16-year-old terrorist ponders his feelings about his life and his duty to kill.
Kate, the young bus driver, constantly weighs her options as she struggles to outwit her captors. Even a child on the bus, smart little Raymond, becomes human to readers, increasing the emotional intensity when the hijackers kill him. Most interesting is Ben, the son of the general. We see Ben in alternating chapters as he remembers the incident with the terrorists and as he awaits a visit at his school by his father. Ben appears to be suicidal, but readers don't know why. Cormier gives the book a stunning twist when readers discover that the narrator of those chapters may have been someone other than Ben. The shocker of an ending lifts the book out of a standard suspense genre, transforming it into an intriguing psychological study.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the way in which Cormier structured his book to include various points of view.
Why do you think he wrote it the way he did?
What are the different
points of view and how do they help advance the story?
Would you have
enjoyed the book more or less if it was structured another way?
this book have clear-cut heroes and villains? Why or why not? Among the
various characters, who do you admire the most? The least?
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