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Harmon, Michael. The Chamber of Five. Knopf, 2011. [208p]. Library ed. ISBN 978-0-375-96644-6 $19.99 Trade ed. ISBN 978-0-375-86644-9 $16.99 E-book ed. ISBN 978-0-375-89641-5 $16.99 Reviewed from galleys Ad Gr. 9-12.

Jason doesn't want to be part of his elite private school's Chamber of Five (an unofficial but unchecked ruling body of five immensely privileged students), but between his physically abusive congressman father and the dangerously monomaniacal leader of the Chamber, Carter, he's not given much of a choice. When he's ordered to get a new scholarship kid kicked out of the school, he decides to rebel and change the school's power structure from within by stealing the upcoming student council election. The new kid's violent personal vendetta against Carter and Carter's own insanity quickly spin the situation out of control. Jason's self-loathing and sense of entrapment is palpable, and the political setup for the Chamber's existence—that it is one of thirteen such bodies established at top boarding schools around the country years ago to groom a network of leaders who would suppress the rising political power of "the hippies, freaks, dopeheads, and general do-nothing-for-something scum"—is provocative. Unfortunately, the underdeveloped characters and unsubtle writing will limit readers' investment in the situation, and the ending is a bit pat. For more piercing and realistic portrayals, readers would still be best served by returning to the Cormier classics, but Harmon nonetheless provides an accessible unpacking of the psychology of power structures, group-think, and out-of-control intimidation. [End Page 522]



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