Title: Boot Camp
Author: Todd Strasser
Garrett Durrell is the child most parents dream of: he was reading at age 3; was in all the gifted programs throughout childhood; and stands at the top of this high school class. The only problem is that it all comes too easily, and he grown bored. He starts skipping class, justifying it by the fact that he can learn in 3 days what it takes most kids to learn in a week; unfortunately, his parents don't feel the same way. However, when Garrett begins dating his teacher (who he feels is his intellectual equal), his parents finally say enough is enough.
So enters Lake Harmony, an exclusive behavior modification camp which guarantees results. Garrett's parents "enroll" him for $4,000/month (signing a waiver absolving the camp from any liability), and then arrange to have him kidnapped and transported to the "camp".
At Lake Harmony, Garrett and the other teens are subjected to extreme physical and psychological abuse until they are broken down and "rebuilt" into the children their parents want. From the beginning, Garrett questions the justification for his imprisonment; after all, his only crimes are skipping school to visit a few museums...and falling in love with someone his parents (and society) don't approve of. Garrett soon befriends two other wrongly-admitted teens, and the three decide they must escape Lake Harmony at any cost...the question is, can they do it???
The Good: Boot Camp was one of the most thought-provoking YA books I have ever read. After reading of the extreme conditions that exist at Lake Harmony Boot Camp, Strasser includes a brief Afterword that explains the truths behind the story. Boot camps actually exist all over the country - and in numerous foreign countries (to escape U.S. laws against mistreatment.) Teens can be sent there for ANY reason provided their parents are willing to pay; their only chance for escape is accepting their parent's views or reaching legal adulthood at 18. Boot Camp provides a fascinating view into these facilities and raises the question of parent/teenage rights. I would highly recommend this book for book club/group discussion. I, also, imagine that this book would be highly popular with guys (especially those that might be troublemakers themselves!)
The Bad: I have nothing critical to say about this work. It was well-written and extremely interesting.