Sunday, October 23, 2011

The Terrorist by Caroline B. Cooney

Cooney, Caroline B. The Terrorist. New York: Scholastic Press, 1997.

Laura and Billy move with their parents to England for their father's job. Their father travels to factories to close them down and many people lose their jobs. On the way to school someone hands Billy a package. When he realizes what it is Billy holds on to it to protect a mother and child near him from being injured. Billy is killed instantly. Laura and her parents try to come to terms with Billy's death. Laura wants to know if it was a random act of terrorism and her brother died for no reason or if Billy was targeted by someone. Laura looks at all of her friends as if any one of them could be her brother's killer. A friend from school now asks Laura for Billy's passport to escape an arranged marriage. Laura ironically is helping the villain she is trying to find.

Critical Analysis:
This mystery is told in first person by Laura. Laura and her brother Billy have been forced to move to England for their father's job. Billy was an interesting character and loved life. Laura thought he "was the most interesting person on earth, but he was not on earth now" (p.30). He was darker in complexion than anyone else in his family. This small detail provided at the beginning of the story would be one reason he was targeted. The setting of this novel is perfect. It is believable because residents of England face terrorism daily.  Americans are not used to terrorism in their country, but England has had many terrorist attacks. They teach the students rules about terrorism in school.  "Terrorism, whether there is one victim or a hundred, earns its name. People are terrified" (p.49). Cooney does a great job of making Laura believable with what she says and her thoughts. I think there are a couple of themes in this book. The first theme is terrorism and what it is like to live with terrorism daily. The second theme is how to deal with the death of a loved one. Laura wants revenge and screams out in her thoughts often. She wants her brothers death to have some kind of meaning. Her mother and father do not know how to put the pieces of their lives back together again. They are living in a daze. The plot becomes terrifying when you realize that the real villain is a friend of Laura's and she is helping her leave the country with Billy's passport. It is a thriller of a read.

Strengths and Weaknesses:
I think one of the strengths of this book is the plot and how it builds with excitement. I think a weakness may be the stereotyping of a Muslim being the terrorist. This fit the stereotype of a Muslim.


Publishers Weekly states this novel is "thought-provoking as well as a just plain good read".  Nov. 1999.

Booklist states "tension builds expertly in Cooney's latest thriller, which is sure to hook fans early on with its breezy dialogue, believable characters, and--since it's set in an international school in London--interesting global perspective."

Kirkus Review states "while most of the characters are as real as their grief--making human choices, and suffering the consequences--others simply fade out of the story, and the culprit is based more on a stereotype than on logic."

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