From Goodreads: All Schools are the same and Spencer Pendleton expects no less from Greenfield Middle. But Spencer hasn’t met them yet-the Tribe, a group of runaway students who secretly own the school. They live off cafeteria food and wield weapons made out of everyday school supplies. Strangely, no one seems to know they exist, except for Spencer. And the group wants him to join their ranks. All he has to do is pass the initiations…and leave his mother and life behind. Can Spencer go through with it? Better yet, what will happen if he says no?
This novel started out really funny and I highly enjoyed it, and then it took on a bit of a darker tone, fleshing out the theme of bullying, going from a more humorous tone to a didactic one. It’s a great middle school novel just the same, though, and I love just how imaginative the author, Clay McLeod Chapman, really is. As an adult, I never expect to laugh out loud when reading middle grade novels, but this one really had me snickering for a while there, and it drew me right in to the story. Thus, I was already hooked when the novel went from funny to sinister.
As a kid, I always had this fantasy of living between the walls of places, spying on society, and being self-sufficient, and in a way, this novel really spoke to me on that level. The Tribe does just this, but their fun antics quickly turn threatening and the more I read, the more I realized just how silly my childhood dream really was. Mix in some hilarity with the outlandish, and it becomes clear fairly quickly that this really isn’t the lifestyle for me, or anyone, for that matter. These kids have forsaken society, a place that shunned them and treated them badly, full of cliques and judgment, only to cut themselves off from reality in the sense that they eventually become what they hate. As I said before, it’s quite edifying with lots of teachable moments, and a great overall theme against bullying. Overall, I highly recommend it to MG readers, and I think many YA readers would enjoy it as well, especially with the intrigue surrounding the Tribe. Four stars.
Disney Book Group has been extremely gracious in allowing me to read an ARC of this novel, via Netgalley, prior to its official release on May 7, 2013.