Boot Camp by Todd Strasser

November 14th, 2007 by Brian Leave a reply »

In 2005, over 100,000 teens were held in boot camp facilities. Until they are 18, those kids are treated like the property of the camp. Many camps hire transporters to bring in detainees (as featured in Nadya Labi’s Want Your Kid to Disappear? ), kidnapping them from their own homes.Returning with the same research style that made Give a Boy a Gun and Can’t Get There From Here work, Todd Strasser gives us a scary glimpse of one boot camp in the northern part of the United States through the eyes of Garrett.

A Great Escape

  1. This book screams of Shawshank Redemption and 1984. Garrett may have been wrongly thrown into the camp, but since the police are not involved there is no trial. Once Garrett is inside the camp, all rights are forfeit.
  2. Garrett struggles with maintaining his integrity and compassion in such a harsh environment. Many times he chooses not to retaliate but instead to try to understand what is going on.
  3. The camp members will beat him until he recants. The adults may be under contract, but what is to stop other detainees from getting in a couple of cheap shots to move up. Detainees are ranked by levels of merits, earning more by selling out other camp members. More than once Garrett points out that the guards (much like Hitler’s soldiers) are still responsible for their actions, even if they were “only following orders”.
  4. There is a chase scene where Garrett and his transporter are face to face and it distinctly reminded me of the face-off between Harrison Ford and Tommy Lee Jones in The Fugitive. Throughout that chase the level of suspense is expertly maintained. I honestly didn’t think that the book would have that type of action in it, but it still added to the plotline.
  5. The book will challenge students to compare to their own lives and then to expand their worldview, much like Dave Pelzer’s A Child Called It got students talking.

A Shiv in the Back

  1. The book is rough. Namely, someone gets stabbed in the back by a homemade toothbrush shiv.
  2. The topic of boot camps is controversial, especially when the parents in the book could be very wrong.

I personally love the book. The students that have read it so far have been very gripped by what’s inside.


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