Kathleen Jeffrie Johnson Target

ISBN 13: 9780761327905

Target

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9780761327905: Target
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Why had the men chosen him? Savagely violated by two strangers, sixteen-year-old Grady West retreats into silence. Some hells just can't be shared. Searing and powerful, Target shows that people can go through unspeakable things and emerge whole-- and sometimes your friends can save you. Another "provocative tale" (Booklist) by Kathleen Jeffrie Johnson, author of The Parallel Universe of Liars.

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About the Author:

Kathleen Jeffrie Johnson, a library technician, lives in Rockville, Maryland. Her other books include The Parallel Universe of Liars and A Fast and Brutal Wing.

From Booklist:

Gr. 10-12. Since being savagely raped and assaulted by two men, 16-year-old Grady West has lived an exercise in "after the night of" instead of life: nothing means what it used to. Terrified that his friends will discover what has happened, Grady enrolls at a new school on the other side of the county, where he meets three "outsider" classmates--Jess, Fred, and Pearl--who will, in various idiosyncratic ways, help him begin a process of healing. He also meets a fourth, Gwendolyn, a wannabe investigative reporter for the school newspaper, who senses that Grady has a secret, which she is determined to expose. It doesn't take keen powers of observation to deduce that Grady is troubled: rendered nearly catatonic by the experience, he remains, even after a number of months, practically speechless and burdened by a host of odd behaviors. In fact, it's hard to believe that, in a world outside the pages of a novel, Grady could really function in a public school. That's just one of the problems with this powerful and provocative but also flawed novel.

The subject is certainly important and a valid one for a young adult novel: boys are raped, and the searing, life-changing situation demands attention. And Johnson has created in Grady a highly sympathetic character whose agonies are plausibly rendered in third-person voice. She also writes well, despite an annoyingly heavy-handed use of birds as a metaphor, and she has an obvious talent for pacing and building suspense.

It's difficult, however, to account for the vividly detailed descriptions of the attack. Was it necessary to describe the particulars of Grady's rape in such excruciating explicitness? There's also Grady's intense concern over his not fighting back, which seems purposefully set up so he can agonize over whether or not he might be gay--and therefore a "target." Johnson acknowledges, late in the book, that, as with rapes of women, most such attacks are exercises in power and domination, not sexually motivated, but her message is confusing. Grady is made to have flashbacks of being sexually molested as a child by the man next door, and it is Fred, the (token?) gay boy in his class, whom Grady finally turns to for help. By the end Grady seems to be developing tender feelings for Pearl, a girl who has problems of her own, but the relationship between rape and sexual orientation that is introduced in the story remains blurred.

And what about Gwendolyn and Jess? Gwendolyn is a caricature antagonist. Give her a mustache, and she would be Snidley Whiplash from the Dudley Doright cartoons. African American Jess is more complex. He's intended as the chief architect of Grady's salvation, but he seems almost as unsympathetic as Gwen: he's a homophobe, a misogynist, and, frankly, something of a racist. That he also happens to be a secret poet is, presumably, meant to show that beneath the angry-young-man demeanor, he's really a sensitive kid.

So, here are the questions that remain for readers. What's the relationship between Grady's assault and homosexuality? Which characters deserve the reader's sympathy? And are these characters plausible agents of his recovery? Although these are large--and troubling--questions, some readers will be swept away by the intensity of the book and care enough about Grady to overlook them. Others, alas, . . . won't. Michael Cart
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Other Popular Editions of the Same Title

9780761319320: Target

Featured Edition

ISBN 10:  0761319328 ISBN 13:  9780761319320
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press, 2003
Hardcover

9780440239109: Target

Laurel..., 2005
Softcover

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