10 January 2011

The Cruisers

The Cruisers by Walter Dean Myers is the first in a new series by this master of fiction for young adults. The premise is promising: Eighth-graders Zander, Kambui, LaShonda, and Bobbi are a group of friends who call themselves "The Cruisers" because they think they've figured out the way to cruise through school. After publishing an article in their self-published newspaper espousing their laid-back philosophy, they are called in to see the assistant principal. Although he would like to encourage them to find other schools, the principal wants to give them another chance. To that end, the friends have been assigned as Peacekeepers in the upcoming eighth-grade project: a reinactment of the Civil War. Some of the "Confederate" students seem to be taking their role a little too seriously (even pretending to sell an African-American student at lunchtime) and the Cruisers learn that words have the power to build up as well as tear down.

One thing I really liked about this slim novel is that every time someone suggests a fight is in order, Zander insists that he has to "see the win" in a situation to make it worth his fighting; he does not look to his fists to solve his problems. Overall, though, this novel seems to trade in Myers' usual depth for concision. The action happens too swiftly and is resolved too easily for this book to achieve the realistic view of a difficult situation that Myers is so beloved for.

Having said that, I definitely think this book has kid appeal and the potential to pass on some valuable lessons without being overly didactic. Book 2 (Checkmate) is due next August; I'll be checking it out to see what Zander and his friends are up to next.

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