By Graham Gardner
When Elliot Sutton arrives at Holminster High, he is determined not to stand out. He simply can’t let himself become a target like he was at his last school. He’s going to invent a whole new Elliot. The new Elliot is tough, impenetrable. The new Elliot shows no fear.
Enter the Guardians, a group of upperclassmen who secretly rule over Holminster with a quiet and anonymous terror. Obsessed with George Orwell’s book 1984, they desire power for the sake of power. And strangely enough, they also want Elliot. Not to terrorize . . . but to become one of them.
Gripping in its psychological understanding, this unflinching novel takes you deep into the mind of a boy who is coming to understand the nature of absolute power and its inevitable casualties, and also finding a bit of his own strength along the way.
In this stunning first novel, Graham Gardner pays homage to Robert Cormier’s great The Chocolate War with a story about a boy trying to survive in a school run by a vicious secret society. But where Jerry Renault resists the system, only to succumb to it in the end, Elliot Sutton is more eager to do its bidding, and doesn’t take action to resist until it is almost too late. At first Elliot had hoped that it would be different at Holminster High. He carries the fear always--the fear of the beatings and much worse that made his life hell at his old school. But at Holminster High, Elliot can be the kind of person who avoids trouble by fitting in. He watches himself carefully every moment and shapes himself to be noticed just enough in the right way. Ironically, his strategy backfires when the Guardians (the secret three who control and terrorize Holminster High) select him as a candidate to be trained for their group. After school, Elliot finds a friend in outcast Ben, but both boys know they can never acknowledge each other in the halls. When Elliot falls in love with bright, outspoken Louise, he feels he must wear yet another identity for her. Elliot sinks into numb isolation behind his masks when a crucial decision pushes him to take back his self with an act that could cost him dearly. Inventing Elliot is a heartrending, engrossing novel to be pondered and discussed. (Ages 12 and older) --Patty Campbell
From School Library Journal
Grade 7-9--Teased by bullies in his old school, Elliot is determined to reinvent himself at his new high school by donning a cool, unflappable exterior. Ironically, the 14-year-old's aloofness earns the interest of an elite group of bullies, known as the Guardians, whose members target school losers for punishment in cruel and ritualistic ways. In this psychological drama, the outwardly congenial Guardian leaders, who are never seen "in the company of actual violence," recruit Elliot using control tactics adopted from their favorite book, George Orwell's 1984. With no way out, he passes the initiation test that requires him to choose a punisher and a victim. Elliot's outward voice alternates with an inner voice written in italics, depicting a battle of sensibilities. Two valuable but tentative friendships disintegrate as Elliot becomes more Guardianlike, and the struggles with his conscience intensify. In an emotion-packed ending, the teen realizes that the strength he had in choosing not to be a victim is the same strength he needs to uncloak the Guardians. Elliot is an appealing protagonist, and his need to fit in will strike a chord with most readers.--Vicki Reutter, Cazenovia High School, NY
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