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A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this book involves Roberta, who is haunted by her mother's murder seven years ago, and ultimately discovers some devastating truths about her death. A major theme here is racism and prejudice, and the many ways, some obvious but most not, that they play out. Of special topical interest is the discussion between Roberta and Sam about Western and Arab views of the Crusades and the Gulf War.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Roberta cruises passively and seemingly without emotion through her lousy life. Her mother was killed seven years ago, her father is rarely home, and she works after school and weekends for no pay at the family's failing arcade in a dying mall frequented by skinheads. During the course of the novel two more people to whom she is close die, one a gruesome suicide right in front of her. The only person who seems to care about her is the old lady who runs the Hallmark store in the mall. But when she meets an undercover detective investigating hate crimes at the mall she begins to emerge from her passive shell to stand up to her school, a local lying politician, and finally her father, as she finds clues that lead her to a series of devastating revelations about her mother's death.
Is it any good?
No one will ever accuse Edward Bloor of a lack of originality. His rich and complex novels, though in need of tighter editing, have characters, settings, and situation far from the usual YA literature. Roberta's story ping-pongs all over the place, between uncaring adults and burned-out teens whose lives are unprobed mysteries to their self-involved parents. Among the multitude of characters, only a very few are decent, caring people, though even they hide their hearts under masks of cynicism.
Though the story meanders, it holds the reader's interest throughout, though at times it's the fascination of an accident, making one want to turn away as much as look. It's a not very appealing look at aspects of our culture most of us would rather not see, dark, gritty, and very real. Teens will love it.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the book's title. Why do you think Bloor chose to call it Crusader?
This book involves a murder -- and also deals with some heavy topics like racism. What was it that drew you to this book? Were you interested in the mystery -- or the issues? Or maybe both?
For kids who love coming-of-age stories
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.