Oh-me-oh-my The Vigilante Poets of Selwyn Academy by Kate Hattemer has everything which is good about YA novels. It has an unexpected storyline, both unique and evolving. Just when you think you know where the story is heading it veers off in a new direction. I like being surprised and delighted by books, this one delivered both.
It has four likable main characters, the kind of kids who actually roam the halls of high schools. They are talented, insecure, cocky, and funny. Their dialogue is realistic and complex. They want to make something of their lives and they want good things for their school, too. They are inspired by good teachers and take lessons to heart. They are disappointed by poor teachers and suspicious of administrators, especially those who don't seem to have the school's best interest in mind.
When their art-focused school, Selwyn Academy, agrees to be part of a reality-TV show called For Art's Sake and invite eighteen students to compete for the final prize, Ethan (the narrator), Luke, Elizabeth, and Jackson have to do something to bring their school back from the abyss of greed and celebrity. They employ the use of the long poem to communicate with their classmates their concerns. Along the way the reader also learns about the long poem, "The Cantos", by poet Ezra Pound. I'm a sucker for books that actually use poetry in the text of the story.
The English teacher, BradLee, makes the point that a person's life decisions doesn't or shouldn't affect how we feel about their art. Ezra Pound led a very controversial life yet his art remains worthy of consideration. It was odd timing to read this as the world learned about the suicide of Robin Williams. The way he dealt with his life shouldn't alter the way that we view his art. He was tremendously talented and now he is gone, but his art remains. Ars longa, vita brevis, art is long, life is short.
My gushing is almost done, but not quite. Debut author Kate Hattemer used to teach high school Latin classes. Inserting latin words into the text of the novel added to my delight with the book and it wasn't even a stilted use of the dead language. Hattemer actually knows latin and shared tidbits to enhance the readers experience.
The Vigilant Poets of Selwyn Academy: where art and life intersect beautifully.
30 books Summer Reading Challenge
18 / 30 books. 60% done!