The Lords of Discipline by Pat Conroy
My rating: 5 of 5 stars ("Amazing!")
I've included this novel in my "ya lit" reviews because although it isn't technically YA Lit, I think young adults could relate.
An absolutely amazing novel. This book was recommended to me during an AP Conference, and I can certainly see why. This novel is easy to read no matter your age, but probably especially powerful for young adults who are seeking their own voices and identities.
Our protagonist, Will McLane, a cadet at the Carolina Military Institute (known simply as The Institute), answers the call to keep an eye on the new freshman, Tom Pierce, the first black student to enroll in the fall of 1966. This task sets Will to reflect on the current climate of the Institute. The novel unfolds in four parts, 3 focusing on specific and monumental events in Will's senior year, and one flashback to his own plebe year. All these events eventually converge in Will's present, forcing him to uncover the truths and demons of The Institute, including the possible investigation of a mysterious and dangerous society ("The Ten").
This is one of the few books that I am giving 5 stars to based purely on my holistic reaction. This book isn't without its faults, namely that I'm still not entirely sure why the storyline with Annie Kate was absolutely necessary. But I'm willing to forgive it and some of the other little faults simply because the total piece is so gripping, interesting, and compelling. As hackneyed as it may sound, it is true: I laughed, I cried... (it was better than Cats!)
Conroy is a master of suspenseful writing, that's for sure. I probably got more out of listening to this on audio simply because there were several scenes in which I was dying for information to come to light, where I found myself gasping in shock or gripping the steering wheel, telekinetically urging the narrator to read faster. If I'd had a novel in-hand, I probably would have sped-read through those pages and missed a great deal of his lush descriptions, apposite metaphors, and engaging characterizations. This is a book worth talking about, so don't read it on your own; grab a friend, book club, or classroom, and dig in!
Recommend: Yes, but it is a military institute in the 60s. There are obscenities including use of the N-word. This would be a great book for older grades.
Topics Discussed: Honor, Brotherhood, Loyalty, Truth, Class Divisions, Prejudice, Identity, Respect
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