What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this edgy story revolves around the killing of a store owner by a 13-year-old boy. Told in documentary format, it depicts and alienated boy who expresses himself through art. It leaves much for readers to discuss and evaluate, and provides no easy answers.
What's the story?
13-year-old Robbie Jones has just murdered an elderly storekeeper, and no one knows why. He always seemed like just a nice, normal kid. Through interviews, news reports, and court documents the author reveals the story, but not the reasons. In this brief book with no easy answers, readers are left with much to think about.
The facts are beyond dispute. On the day he turns 13, Robbie Jones takes a gun out of his father's dresser, rides his new bicycle to a liquor store downtown, and fatally shoots the elderly Korean storekeeper. The only question remaining is why--and Robbie won't, or can't, say.
In documentary format, through news reports and through interviews with Robbie's parents, friends, classmates, teacher, principal, counselor, and lawyer, as well as with the police officers and the victim's widow, author Virginia Walter lays down the facts and opinions, then leaves readers to draw their own conclusions.
Is it any good?
This disturbing novel has no easy answers or neat endings. It seems straight out of the headlines, and is likely to provoke great discussions. In short takes, Virginia Walter captures the essence of the personalities involved: Robbie's hard-nosed dad, his bewildered friend, his self-involved classmates. Only Robbie, who is silent throughout, remains an enigma, his feelings expressed only through his comic strip, "Megaboy."
The author only hints at what might have led to this tragedy. No one seems to know this child at all -- not even his parents. The book's short, easy-to-read format, as well as its tough-minded attitude, compelling subject, edgy computer-generated collages, and Robbie's superhero drawings, will appeal to reluctant readers. The graphic design makes the book look both unique and cool, and enhances the ripped-from-the-headlines feeling.
Families can talk about...
Families can talk about Robbie's actions. Why do you think he kills the store owner? Do you see any way this tragedy -- for the store owner and for Robbie -- could have been prevented? What do you make of Robbie's real-world behavior and that of his fictional alter ego, Megaboy? They also can talk about Robbie's relationships with his family, classmates, and the community. Who knows him well? Who do you think cares about him?