Sunday, May 6, 2012

Blank Confession

Shayne Blank walks into the police station and confesses to having killed someone.  How could this quiet, unassuming new kid in town be a murderer? The other kids don't understand him. He's not afraid of anything. He seems too smart. And his background doesn't add up.
This is a compelling mystery from the National Book Award winner Pete Hautman.  As I was reading this novel, I couldn’t help think about Robert Cormier’s Rag and Bone Shop.  In Rag and Bone, a young girl was murdered, and the town brought in a high profile, ambitious interrogator who had a perfect record in getting confessions from criminals.  In Pete Hautman’s “Blank Confession”, the confession comes voluntarily from Shayne, who tells his story to Detective Rawls, a tired detective who has his own baggage.  

There are so many good themes explored in this short novel – bullying, drug dealers, self-esteem and truth.  The story alternates between the detective’s point of view and Mikey’s point of view.  Mikey is the smallest kid in his class. He’s a suit-wearing grade eleven student, who is always bullied, and who Shayne ends up defending.  Mikey’s sister hangs out with a tough crowd, and when one of her friends gives Mikey a bag of drugs for safekeeping, Mikey throws it away.  And that’s when the trouble starts.  

This is a great page-turner and a quick read.  Intermediate students will enjoy the richly drawn characters, and the twists and turns in this fast-paced murder mystery.

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