Friday, October 21, 2011

Deviant by Adrian McKinty

Anyone that knows me, knows that when Adrian McKinty comes out with a new book, I hardly move from my reading chair until I've finished it, even if it is a young adult book. I hate putting his books down and moving out of his almost poetic form of writing back into the real world that generally consist of chaos. Deviant hit me a bit different however. It hit a bit close to home in some of it's content, weather it was supposed to or not.

Deviant is the story of Danny Lopez, whose family moves to Colorado when his mom is promoted at work. Suddenly, he finds himself thrown into an experimental new school where no one is allowed to talk, including teachers, except while reading the scripted lessons being taught. Not only is school strange, but someone is killing cats and leaving them in odd places that demand to be noticed. As Danny and his new friends decide to figure out who is doing the killing, they discover people aren't at all who they thought.

So what struck me about that? One thing was the school. I have 2 kids myself that go to public school, I work part time at one of their schools, and am very involved with both in any way I can be. I hate the politics of it, and as outrageous as the school system that was in the book was, if it got test numbers up, I could see the government, or powers that be, going for it. It was ridiculous, yes, but so are several ways the school politicians fool us into believing their system is working.

The other thing that struck me was the view of religion put in the book. Since I live in the middle of the "Bible Belt", religion is everywhere, and I can see the book being almost offensive here because of the mere mention of Focus on the Family, and Christianity in general, in a negative light. In all honesty, I'm now a bit curious and wouldn't mind spending some time in Colorado just to see how justified the negative impressions are.

Of course, with McKinty's books, you always get more than you expect. Thrown in with the story of a new boy at an odd school trying to catch a cat killer, you have many tidbits of fun. Japanese culture, space, old Si-fi movies, and art all appear in bits and pieces. It's a bit like reading an abbreviated form of the authors blog at times, which I always enjoy.


seana said...

I also found the school system one of the most interesting aspects of the book, but I was very curious that the parents all seemed to just acquiesce to it. Maybe in an alternative school for kids that had 'broken bad' before, but I don't think this kind of school would fly in the Santa Cruz school system, to be honest. Alternative education here seems to go more toward less restrictions and more interaction rather than less. I'd be curious whether there was a real life model for this.

I think the heartening thing was how easily the kids found ways of getting around it.

I can't really comment on the bible belt aspect, as that isn't really where I live, although I think there would some objections even here. Even Santa Cruz has a sizeable part of the population who would be proud to call themselves Conservative Christian.

I think Adrian's current blog pst about The Life of Brian controversy which it seems you might find interesting in relation to all this.

Glenna said...

Seana, I plan to check out and watch the videos Adrian posted on The Life of Brian.

You'd be surprised what goes on in schools. Every year the kids in Texas have to take a state wide test that supposedly tells how the schools are doing, but in reality all it does is manipulate parent and stroke politicians egos. The schools turn into something similar to what was modeled in Deviant. No one can talk, not even teachers to students unless it's to give a short instruction. Kids can't talk at all, not even at lunch, in line, or on a break. The school is completely silent for the 3 days it's going on. It's creepy. And, to top it off, the passing score isn't even determined until the powers that be have graded the test and looked at the scores. Those grades then determine how much funding the state gives to each school every year, and the teachers salary's.

Top that off with school funding being constantly cut regardless, fewer teachers, more students in every class and a push to get rid of extracurricular classes like P.E, music, and art and it's not pretty.

We moved here because of the schools, and I don't regret it a bit. As things go, we live in a well known school district that is fighting to resist the pressure,m but none the less, it's always there.

Ok, I'll get off my soap box now.

seana said...

Well, actually it sounds very much like California, although I haven't heard anything about an imposed silence, except of course during the actual test. But I'm not really close enough to those days of testing to know how it's implememted. It doesn't seem possible to me that you could keep kids quiet for that long, so its all a bit closer to Adrian's fictional school than I imagined.

Well, keep fighting the good fight. Test scores for funding seems inherently corrupting and not very good at all for educating young minds.

Oh, yeah, and thanks for reminding me that I was going to watch those videos tonight.

Glenna said...

Seana, I'm not sure myself how the teachers manage it. My kids have told me the teachers have gum and various snacks in zip lock bags sitting out, (no packages with words allowed at all and wrappers are taken off of water bottles), and bribes are given if the kids do their best on testing days. One teacher at my daughter's school wears a suit the last month of school in return for cooperation. On field day, while everyone else is in comfortable athletic stuff, he's in his Sunday best....and that time of year in Texas is muggy and hot, not a fun time to be in a jacket in tie. It works though. I guess the teachers do whatever they have to in order to get through it.

seana said...

Sounds like all that's missing are the white gloves...

Glenna said...

Seana, now that would just be wrong. Have you ever seen a kindergartener eat lunch? Keeping those gloves white would be an impossible task.

adrian mckinty said...


Thanks for the review, I very much appreciate it.

I really hope you like the next one, if you can get it in the US (which looks pretty doubtful, actually)

Glenna said...

Adrian, thankfully there is always Audible.