- The End of the Line
Confined alone in a locked room, punished until he writes what the authorities in Great Oaks School think he ought to, Robbie can’t help but privately believe that he’s finally getting the treatment he deserves. Interspersed flashbacks reveal the guilt-ridden Robbie’s ambivalent relationship with Ryan, a troubled fellow sixth-grader, who’s sometimes Robbie’s staunchest supporter and sometimes a thorn in his side. Meanwhile, as Robbie negotiates the school’s severe strictures, it’s revealed that Ryan eventually died at Robbie’s own hands. The creepy, controlling atmosphere and the crafty limits on information shared with the reader give this narrative a suspenseful dystopian flavor, and indeed it’s only gradually clear that it’s actually a contemporary realistic—if harsh—story. The unfolding of the plot is absorbing, with Ryan revealed to be a kid from a deprived and wounded family who has some serious social difficulties, and Robbie fighting his own demons in regards to his father’s lack of attention and his beloved uncle’s serious injury in Iraq. As is so often true in fiction, the actual revelation of the truth (that Ryan died accidentally as the two boys were fighting) isn’t as compelling as the journey to it, but it’s a sufficiently taut and mysterious journey that readers will be satisfied just to get the answers to their many questions.