In the fall of 2008, Thomas Clarke’s life is turned upside down. His old high school closed the previous spring, and his friends all went off to different schools. So for his senior year, Thomas must go alone to a new school with a rigorous curriculum and an intensely competitive administration and student body. Every move he makes is watched closely, and incredible pressure is put on him to perform at the highest level academically. If that were not enough for one young man to deal with, the national economy teeters on the edge of complete collapse, and the future of his family’s livelihood also is very much in doubt. With the support of his family and two old friends (along with a few new ones), Thomas must decide on a prudent response. What, if anything, can bring him any kind of happiness in this high-stress situation? The course of action Thomas chooses is challenging and distressing to some, while challenging and inspiring to others. But does he have the fortitude to follow this course of action for the entire school year?
When I began this book, I noticed and appreciated the thoroughly Catholic atmosphere right away. However, I soon caught on that the main character's dialogue was quite stiff, proper, and not how I would imagine a teenager to speak. But I decided that since Thomas is described as going into an AP program for his senior year in high school, and his grades are reported as stellar and way above the average, that maybe this guy is somewhat of a genius. That thought was partly right.
As I got towards the middle of the book, things started to make sense and I realized that, yes, this character is not your average high schooler. Thomas comes from a very Catholic family and he was given a very sound education (either by his parents or by a school that I'm surprised would exist). In fact, Thomas is a lot like me. Thomas and his two good friends Richard and Marie are the elite. They are more mature than most of high schoolers these days; they not only have traditional Catholic beliefs, but beliefs towards the world in general that are even what might be called "radical" nowadays. I also identified with the latter - in fact, I have never read a book before with such smart kids (or adults even), and I was VERY appreciative and overjoyed by this fact.
If there's anything negative about this book, I can say that I noticed a few very simple spelling mistakes throughout it - but it's very very minor. I'm more than willing to let this pass, not only because of the great content, but because it is a self-published book. Michael did not believe that a regular publisher would even listen to him because of the content of his book, and I believe that he is right. But that's only because the majority of publishers these days are a scumbag lot (and I am not going to apologize for that in any way).
If you like Catholic or youth fiction...or just fiction in which the characters actually know what's what in the world...I would recommend this book highly to you. Get your copy of Michael's book on Amazon and support this very worthy author.
Just to end, I thought I would post some words that Michael wrote to me that I believe describe his book better than I ever could:
"I wrote this novel to help young people to understand how traditional Catholic teachings on Virtue, Truth, and Love are relevant in the modern world. For a lot of reasons, many young people are not aware of the wealth of beautiful teachings that have been passed on to us over the centuries. Everything old is not bad, and everything new is not good. Hopefully this book will help people to understand these things better. I tried to used a little bit of romance, drama, and humor to offset the intellectual points, and also to provide some ammunition for young people to respond the modern rejections of these teachings."
I think this quote should become famous.
Age Range: around 16-19, but I believe anyone older might enjoy this book - and perhaps more mature 14-year-olds and 15-year-olds (in fact, I've met quite a few girls of 14 or 15 that knew more about the world than I did at that age)
Alyianna's Rating: 10 out 10
My favourite character: I'd have to say Richard. I appreciate his sense of humour and his view of he world. And even though Thomas is wonderful as well, I don't agree when he thinks that Richard just tries to make trouble and makes his speeches/papers have a confrontational tone.
My favourite quote/section: A paper by Richard....
"There were a hundred people in a room, having a discussion. At one point, someone declared, "One plus one equals two." Everyone looked around and agreed that this was true. After many, many years of saying that 1 + 1 = 2, one person decided to disagree. He said, "One plus one does not equal two. One plus one equals three." Everyone else in the room did not know how to respond to this statement because it was obvious that 1 + 1 = 2. So, at first, no one paid much attention to this nebbish.
As time went by, this one irritating person kept insisting that 1 + 1 = 3. Day in and day out, year after year, it was repeated that 1 + 1 = 3. Then, amazingly, some other people began to accept it also. The overwhelming majority tried to explain that 1 + 1 = 2, not 3. The overwhelming majority tried to explain that 1 + 1 = 2, not 3. If you have on apple in one hand and another apple in the another hand, and then you bring them together, you end up with two apples, not three. The dissenter said in reply, "No, you are wrong. I don't care what you say. Your method of arithmetic is incorrect. One plus one equals three is a true statement."
Now the more able and educated stepped forward and tried to explain. Truth does not depend on our convoluted notions of logic, nor does it originate from any human being. We are not its author, nor its creators. It exists in and of itself. Something is true because it is in accord with Truth itself. One plus one equals two is not true because we say so. It is is true because what we know about Truth itself. Truth is whole and complete, lacking in nothing, deficient in nothing. It is perfect and will never change. It is eternal. One plus one equals two always has been true, it is true right now, and always will be true. It does not matter if you accept it, agree with it, believe it, or understand it. The Truth was, is, and always will be.
The self-centered, fat-headed dissenter countered that he was being oppressed and discriminated against. The majority could not force their values on him and make him think like they did. He had rights. Furthermore, he would determine what was true, good, and just for himself. He would set his own moral limits - nor not - and demanded that a law be put in place to ensure these rights.
Then, when anyone tried to respond, they were cut short with loud, irrational cries of "Bigots! Why do you hate people different from you? I obey the law. I pay my taxes. I am a good person. I pt my life on the line for this country serving in the military. What difference does it make to you if I believe 1 + 1 = 3? How does that hurt anything in your life? Why can't there be a law that says I am the same as everyone else?"
DANIEL and SONJA WINDSOR: We all have a few books that we keep handy for future reference. This is one of those books that goes on that shelf next to the other well worn books. Each one of my kids will have a copy as well. Michael uses a wonderful story to convey his message of virtue and wisdom. He sees the world through the eyes of an old soul and shows how the ugliness of greed, pride and material desire smother and destroy a healthy society as well as its singular parts — you and me. Michael uses ideas and quotes from history's most intellectual writers and philosophers (Socrates, Plato, Aristotle and Homer) to show us ultimate happiness is obtained by having balance, the courage to do what is right and the faith (being sure of what you hope for and certain of what you cannot see) to follow your heart. The author seamlessly fits in a reference from the Italian poet Petrarch and a comedic quote from the movie "a Princess Bride" — read the book if you haven't, it is quite entertaining. It is truly inspiring.