4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
A Fresh and Exciting Novel,
This review is from: The Illumination of Merton Browne (Hardcover)
This book really surprised me. It's a coming of age story about a boy from desperate familial and socioeconomic circumstances, and a bit reminiscent of tales told by authors from C. Dickens to S. E. Hinton--but the author's understanding of Merton's situation avoids both sentimentality and knee-jerk sociology. It's a page-turner full of memorable action scenes, but it makes you rethink some of the ideological "givens" of our time about the importance of family (not very great, perhaps, if your family is hurting you) and education (kind of totalitarian, actually, if your school won't let you choose your own books and ask critical questions). Merton is pretty much an autodidact, but all of his reading doesn't prevent him from making the mistakes that tragically bedevil so many kids in his circumstances, so he's never too good or bad, and he knows you need to find good teachers. But he's not that ordinary, either. He's a new kind of juvenile hero, neither Oliver Twist nor Holden Caulfield. Grittier and more truthful than Harry Potter, and Merton's wizardry is available to humans--adolescents and grown-ups--willing to read and think.