The Vigilante Poets of Selwyn Academy by Kate Hattemer
My rating: 5 out of 5 stars
The prestigious Selwyn Arts Academy is full of brilliantly talented teens. It's full of dance classes, literature classes, vocal classes. But what it's not full of is a TV reality talent show called For Art's Sake that exploits the students for a miniature bump in ratings.
That's exactly what Selwyn Arts Academy has this year.
And the school couldn't be more thrilled. I mean, it's not every day that you get to go to class and maybe run into some huge TV producer and accidentally camera bomb the shot and OMG I'M GOING TO BE ON TELEVISION!
Except if you're Luke. He's had it up to here (holds hand way above head) with the way For Art's Sake has decided to cheapen the meaning of the word art with its weekly broadcast of overdramatized schlock. So he and his best friends, Ethan, Elizabeth, and Jackson write a vigilante poem to begin an epic underground movement that will rattle the very foundations of the reality TV show kingdom and bring For Art's Sake crumbling to the ground in a heap of HD cameras, gaff tape, and half-empty Starbucks cups.
In no time, the friends' words are scurrying off the lips of every student and teacher in the school. The plan is working. And there's not a thing the TV show can do about it. Except cast Luke, the brainchild of the poem, on the program.
Which it does.
Now Ethan, Elizabeth, and Jackson--along with a furry gerbil sidekick, Baconnaise--must figure out a way to infiltrate the inner circle of cast members to save their must-be-brainwashed pal, their school, and the entire viewing audience from the undying evil of reality television.
There's not a single thing I dislike about this book. No joke. Ethan, the narrator, has one of the most genuine teen voices I've ever read. Yes, the story deals with art in its many forms and the weapon of choice is a long poem inspired by Ezra Pound, but every single character is accessible and the language never even throws a sideways glance toward pretentious.
What made me fall hard in love with this, though, was how Hattemer skirted the traditional rules of story format right off the bat. The book has three beginnings. And yeah, you read all three. You have to. Not because you'll miss some key fragment to a seemingly broken plot point down the road if you don't. It's because her writing is so flipping good you don't want to miss any of it. It's funny. It's honest. It's smart. And, as a writer, it's inspiring.
If it sounds like I'm gushing, it's probably because I am. This is a book I want to gush over. I've recommended this to just about every person I know who knows how to read. And now I want to recommend it to you.
Like art? Read it.
Like humor? Read it.
Like relationships? Read it.
Like ______? Read it.
Seriously. You won't regret it. Because Selwyn Academy has everything. Except you. So jump in.