Wednesday, February 21, 2007

The Grounding of Group 6

The Grounding of Group 6

Julian F. Thompson

Date: 1983   —   $10.85   —   Book

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Fiction, Juvenile

Coldbrook Country School is one of those "alternative" boarding schools, where rich parents can send their kids to be educated in the latest educational style. When you first get there, you go out camping in the woods as an orientation, and after a few days, you come back to get acquainted with the school.

Or, at least, Groups 1 through 5 do. Group 6 is never supposed to come out of the woods at all.

Of course, this time it's a little different. The "advisor" who is supposed to do the job, Nathaniel Rittenhouse, is a recent college graduate who was so desperate for money that he accepted this job before he could think better of it. The more he thought about it, the worse he felt, despite the reassurances that the kids were "lemons" whose parents thought that starting fresh would be the only answer. Of course, once he meets the teenagers in question, there's no question in his mind that the deadly game is going to include him... and there's got to be a way to not only survive, but ensure that the leadership of Coldbrook will never kill again.

If Group 6 can only figure it out...

The characterization in this book is what makes it work. The teenagers are well-developed (even not-very-mature Sully) and the killer faculty of Coldbrook are entertainly batty, particularly Mrs. Ripple, she of the prim and proper behavior and wild mental fantasies. But most of all, this is a fascinating foray into the world of "what-if," a world where some parents would kill their kids if they could do it without getting caught, a world where deviating from the expected behavior is a path to getting killed. Though some of the superficial details have changed (such as dress and cultural references), the story should still ring true to teenagers on the basis of whether it's worth it to fit in, and if not, what is worth it.

And besides, it's mostly just plain entertaining.

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