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Young adult book reviews for ages 12 and up - middle school and high school students

Karoo Boy
by Troy Blacklaws
Young adult 208 pages Harvest Books September 2005 Paperback    

Dee’s twin brother, Marsden, is killed in an accident on the Cape in South Africa in 1976, struck in the head by a ball while playing cricket. Dee remembers: “My mother’s cry is a sky full of gaping-beaked seagulls.” As an identical twin, Dee loses the mirror half of himself, his anchor. His mother can’t forgive her husband, who threw the ball, determined to make him suffer for the tragedy.

In Cape Town, “an un-African Africa, death catches the unsuspecting off guard, dealing the cruelest blow.” Dee soon realizes that every time his father looks at him, he sees the boy he killed, a constant reminder of his twin. The small family unravels after Marsden’s death, the parents drifting away from each other in their grief.

Dee’s mother leaves the Cape for the desert landscape of Klipdorp south of the Free Orange State border, and the bright-haired Afrikaans child finds himself in unfamiliar territory, a Karoo boy. The Freedom Movement has already begun and is growing in momentum, crowds chanting, the authorities responding with violence, bulldozing the Crossroads shanty town, apartheid not yet defeated.

Caught between his affection for an old garage man, a black appropriately named Moses, and his friendship with Marika, a white girl his age, Dee’s wants are few, mainly to live without conflict in his new environment. Moses is a precious commodity, although his willingness to make friends with the white boy puts him in constant danger of reprisal. For her part, Marika is careless and impulsive, used to doing exactly what she wants.

The black shanty town is not far removed from the white enclave; Dee is curious about the township and wishes to make friends with the Xhosa boys who live there. Marika defies her father to visit the township with the Dee, precipitating a series of unfortunate events that could have been avoided, had the adolescents realized the inherent danger of their excursion.

His young world already broken apart by the loss of his twin; Dee’s coming-of-age is painful, a rude awakening for a boy of generous heart in an uneasy land; Dee hasn’t reckoned with the harsh lessons of apartheid. The author handles his protagonist sensitively, exposing the boy’s vulnerabilities, as he is transplanted from the relative security of Cape Town to the chaos of his new home, where a carefully constructed world is transformed almost overnight and a fourteen-year-old boy crosses the boundary from child to man.
Young adult book reviews for ages 12 and up - middle school and high school students

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  Luan Gaines/2005 for curled up with a good kid's book  

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