Today, I'm reviewing The Vigilante Poets of Selwyn Academy, Kate Hattemer's fabulous debut novel!
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published April 8th 2014 by Knopf Books for Young Readers (first published January 1st 2014)
Format read: E-ARC via publisher
Readers will undoubtedly fall in love with Ethan, Baconniase and the gang, and their exploits as they try to save the integrity of their school against the nefarious reality show that has taken over their school.
Synopsis via Goodreads:
While studying Ezra Pound in English class, the friends are inspired to write a vigilante long poem and distribute it to the student body, detailing the evils of For Art's Sake. But then Luke—the creative force behind the poem and leader of the anti-show movement—becomes a contestant on the nefarious show. It's up to Ethan, his two remaining best friends, and a heroic gerbil named Baconnaise to save their school. Along the way, they'll discover a web of secrets and corruption involving the principal, vice principal, and even their favorite teacher.
However, once I started reading, I straight up developed a book crush on Ethan and his friends, and fell completely in love with Hattemer’s beautiful writing.
In Vigilante Poets, Hattemer introduces us to Ethan Andrezejczak – a smart, sarcastic kid who will absolutely admit that he’s just not as talented as everyone else in his prestigious arts school. Still, his group of friends and his overall attitude toward life, has allowed him to live his life relatively normally (if not, averagely) – until the reality TV show For Art’s Sake begins filming at his school.
Now, it’s up to Ethan and his friends, and a wily, larger-than-life gerbil, to protest the absurdity of the show, save the day and make sure that everyone’s art dreams come true.
First things first: it needs to be said that Hattermer has an absolute gift for writing, full stop. Even though Vigilante Poets is her debut novel, it definitely doesn’t read like a debut story. Her world building is spot on, her characters are fully-formed, and her pacing is brilliant.
Hattemer is particularly adept at getting into the head of Ethan and his friends; she throws out the types of witticisms, self-deprecation and (hilariously) honest dialogue that I normally only find when I’m watching a show being written by Aaron Sorkin or Joss Whedon.
Ethan’s observations about life – particularly his unabashed crush on Maura - and his friendships with his friendships with Jackson, Elizabeth and even Baconnaise the Gerbil, are all thoughtful, funny and reflective, especially as he tries to navigate through trying to save the school and Luke from the evils of reality TV. I will absolutely wager that more than one reader will read Ethan’s thoughts, and think “Yep, I’ve been there and have absolutely thought that.”
(That feeling will definitely be further enhanced by the fact that Ethan sometimes breaks the fourth wall and directly addresses the reader, which absolutely engages the reader even more.)
The story itself is a fun combination of a teenaged mystery + caper from beginning to end, but also has a definite profundity added by Hattermer’s well-thought out incorporation of poetry and history. I actually found myself learning new things about literature – something definitely appreciated by this English major, as I read!
Kate Hattemer shows that she not only has the ability to get inside the heads of Ethan and his friends, but also does so in a way that’s entertaining, funny and completely true to the teenage experience.
Ethan and his friends not only have a compelling story to tell, but they will also likely remind readers of the energy and enthusiasm they had for intelligently and hilariously fixing life’s problems when they were the same age as Ethan and company.
Reading Vigilante Poets made me feel nostalgic not only for my teenaged days, but also slightly jealous of all the people who are about to read this book for the very first time – this is a book that will stay with you for a very long time.
Highly recommend for: all fans of YA contemporary fiction/contemporary fiction, fans of good ’80 movies, and fans of shows like Glee, and Buffy.
Disclaimer: I received an E-ARC of The Vigilante Poets of Selwyn Academy from Random House via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!