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

*Truancy* by Isamu Fukui- young adult book review  
by Isamu Fukui
Grades 7+ 432 pages Tor Teen March 2008 Hardcover    

Truancy, written by Isamu Fukui when he was fifteen, is an impressive science fiction novel that goes to show that age and years of experience aren’t always a prerequisite for talent.

The Mayor rules over his domain, the City, with an iron fist. The school system’s main purpose is not to educate the students but to transform them into docile conformists who won’t break the rules or think about rebelling against the Educators and Enforcers who watch and judge their every move. One group of former students, who have been either expelled or left school on their own due to the oppressive “Brick In The Wall” type of educational system they’re forced to participate in, is led by the mysterious teen known as Zyid. They call themselves the Truancy.

Tack and his younger sister, Susie, attend high school in District 20. The novel centers on Tack and his life at high school. Susie provides the only love and support Tack has to make it from one day to another and to face the school’s arbitrary and cruel rules and policies. When she becomes “collateral damage” and dies in a fiery car explosion caused by Zyid that’s designed to assassinate a Chief Educator, Tack vows revenge on the person responsible for his sister’s death. Little does he realize at the time that his search for vengeance will lead him to become a member of the Truancy himself, murdering Enforcers and Educators, and eventually becoming the leader of the rebel group.

There’s only one way for Tack to accomplish his goal. He must train and hone his fighting skills with the sole resident of District 19, Umashi, who is a philosophy-spouting, lemonade-selling (and drinking) martial arts master. Tack meets this strange and enigmatic person while running from senior bullies with Susie. He tells her to run to the subway while he goes the other direction and lure them away from pursuing her. When he is chased to the fence surrounding the forbidden District 19, he decides that facing whatever punishment might result from his action or whatever he might find beyond the fence is preferable to getting his butt kicked.

What he sees is a teenage boy who doesn’t look much older than himself wearing sunglasses and sitting at a table selling glasses of lemonade. Umasi is the one who first informs Tack about the existence of the Truancy, and about the true aims of the Mayor and the City’s educational system. He tells Tack:

“The City is all about control. They believe by conditioning students while they are young and in their schools they can control them when they grow up.”
Truancy reminded me at times Koushan Tokami’s novel Battle Royale. They both deal with repressive, rule-oriented, out-of-control educational systems ran by power-hungry despots. They’re different in most other ways, except for this and the students’ attempts to thwart the rulers’ plans. Both are highly entertaining dystopian novels I recommend to anyone who loves science fiction. I’m sure that Truancy is just the beginning of what will be a long and successful writing career for Fukui. I’m looking forward to reading more from him in the coming years and to seeing how he matures as an author.

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

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  Douglas R. Cobb/2008 for curled up with a good kid's book  

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