Riot School by Robert Rayner
Published August 22, 2016 by Lorimer
In the middle of the night, five teens break into a small town high school that has been closed by the regional school board. They are there to protest the decision to move them to a big city school and make their little town that much smaller. Led by Bilan, whose experience with the Arab Spring fired a passion to peacefully fight against injustice, the Gang of Five occupy their old school. The local police chief and the town quietly cheer them on. When the school board calls in a big security firm to break up their occupation using any means necessary, including force, the five have to decide how far they will go to show their outrage at having no control over decisions that affect their lives.
This is a novel which picks up on themes drawn from the world around us, and shows how these can play out in the lives of contemporary young people.
This book had a lot of potential with an interesting and diverse cast of characters. You have Bilan, the articulate and persuasive leader of this group of teens, her boyfriend Arn - angry at his father's incarceration, Grant - son of one of the town's council members, Barlow - the petty teen thief who also seems to be the school's most compassionate person, and Lettie - the homeless teen. With these different characters, there could've been some interesting character arcs but I was left feeling a lot of threads were left unfinished.
I wasn't sure of the purpose of narrative - if the author wanted to encourage students to speak up and have a voice, he wasn't very successful at it. I was left feeling like young people don't really have a voice, and the actions of unsympathetic adults lead to drug abuse and anarchists. And, I find hard to believe that these students, as articulate as they were, wouldn't have been more media savvy in increasing attention for their cause. All in all, this was a frustrating read.
I received a review copy through NetGalley.
Rating: 2 stars