Gentlemen by Michael Northrop; Review

by Madeleine Rex

Title: Gentlemen

Author: Michael Northrop

Published: November 1st, 2010 by Scholastic*

Number of Pages: 240

Rating: 3/5


Official Review:

Gentlemen is not the book I thought it would be. With the many surprises and course changes throughout, my mind tripped over itself as the story unfolded. However, it was Mike that caught my attention with his rugged and unexpectedly thoughtful voice. Northrop does an outstanding job of creating characters who are nearly the opposite of how they originally appear – characters who I gradually learned to love or love to hate. At the very least, Gentlemen is a book that will keep you on your toes.

Synopsis:

Micheal, Tommy, Mixer, and Bones aren’t just from the wrong side of the tracks–they’re from the wrong side of everything. Except for Mr. Haberman, their remedial English teacher, no one at their high school takes them seriously. Haberman calls them “gentlemen,” but everyone else ignores them–or, in Bones’s case, is dead afraid of them. When one of their close-knit group goes missing, the clues all seem to point in one direction: to Mr. Haberman.

Gritty, fast-paced, and brutally real, this debut takes an unflinching look at what binds friends together–and what can tear them apart. [From Goodreads]

Review:

This book definitely surprised me – in all the right ways.

Namely, the main character. I did not expect Mike to be the clever, funny, intelligent boy that he is. He does a fabulous job of hiding his potential and intuitiveness. I loved reading his rough but unarguably thoughtful and contemplative voice. He’s a kid made up of contradictions. He wears a stereotype like a badge, but is anything but on the inside.

That’s not to say he’s a perfect person. He does some terrible, terrible things. He’s dark and his priorities are skewed. I wouldn’t want to know him personally. So, while I thoroughly enjoyed reading about him, I’m glad I we’re not actually acquainted.

Gentlemen is primarily a murder mystery, even if it was the main character that awed me. The plot is interesting, but it would be nothing (in my opinion, anyway) if it weren’t for the fabulous way that Michael Northrop weaves Crime and Punishment into the story. As Mike sat in his English class, turning over possibilities in his head, I was absorbed in the actual proceedings of the class. I’ve been eager to get my hands on a copy of Crime and Punishment ever since.

As the mystery unfolds, the boys’ suspicions travel from person to person, but invariably return to Haberman. What they claim are clues are sketchy at best, but once an idea is thought of, it’s hard to shake. I spent a majority of the book full of anticipation because, despite the unreliability of the evidence, it’s still convincing. I floundered and wondered alongside the characters.

It’s not until the boys take matters into their own hands and act that nervousness overpowered my anticipation. I wanted to crawl into a hole and close my eyes until the book was over. My apprehension mirrored Mike’s. In just a few pages, the many possible endings are eliminated, and the conclusion is inevitable (and dreaded).

Though Gentlemen is anything but cheery, I appreciated the hard-hitting honesty. The characters who did wrong are duly punished, and those who did nothing at all are let free. My mind did trip over itself, but I realized in the end that everything unfolded as it should have and everyone lands in the right place. I was also pleased by the fact that the book induces thoughts on various odd-ball subjects that I might not have pondered otherwise.

I’d recommend this book to anyone looking for something that will keep their minds alert and ready for anything, particularly something out of the ordinary. I would certainly consider it a great book for discussion and book clubs.

I must warn you: You will be surprised, you will be upset, you will feel a little queasy. It’s a roller-coaster.

Thanks to Scholastic for the review copy!

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