Title: The Terrorist
Author: Caroline B. Cooney
Published: Sept. 1997
Description: For Laura Williams and her very American family, adjusting to life in London has been difficult.
She and her younger brother, Billy, are attending an international school with students from around the world. Arab and Israeli, Irish and English – all of them know about politics. All of them know about hatred. All of them, except Laura.
Laura is on the outside of all of that. She doesn’t hate anybody.
Until . . .
Until eleven-year-old Billy is handed an innocent-looking package in the subway on his way to school. In a sickening moment, Billy remembers the terrorist warnings he has seen posted around London. And then, in an instant, Billy is dead.
Suddenly, Laura is obsessed with politics. And with terrorism. And with hunting down her brother’s murderer – no matter who it is . . . .
In her signature combination of fast-paced, riveting action and gripping emotion, master of suspense Caroline B. Cooney has created an electrifying and extremely timely new novel about trust and hatred, love and death.
Before I start rolling my eyes uncontrollably at that book description, let me say a few words about this recap. I was completely unaware of this book until my friend Dove brought it to my attention. I had never read any of Cooney’s more action/adventure/disaster type titles. Her Point Horror stuff and The Face on the Milk Carton were the only ones I ever had an interest in. You know, the floaty, gauzy prose; weird similes; and description so light you had no idea where any scene was taking place at any given time.
Then Dove started live-texting me her reactions to this book, and it sounded terrible. Really, really bad, but not in the usual baffling Cooney way. It took me a while, but I had to read it myself to see just how bad it was. And folks, it is bad. Racist, insulting to every country/culture it mentions, nationalistic, and phenomenally ignorant about England – London in particular, despite the dedication informing us that Cooney lived there for a year. This last point is why Dove has graciously agreed to comment on this recap and school this ignorant American in all the British inaccuracies. So, Welcome, Dove, for our first book recap together!
[Dove: I had completely forgotten that I had live-texted my reactions. We do this to each other when we find something utterly breathtakingly awful. *thinks* Ours is an odd friendship. But I do remember being infuriated by almost everything about this book, and sometimes when someone says something is awful, you just have to see for yourself. So, I’m really sorry, JC, for telling you just how bad this is. But we have not oversold the awfulness of this book. Strap in.]
This inside-the-book-flap description (the copy of the book on Open Library was apparently scanned from the hardcover edition of this book) is almost too much to bear. I included the last paragraph stroking Cooney’s ego for the sole purpose of mockery, but now I just don’t even have the will. What would be the better description here? “Laura, who bleeds red white and blue and feels sorry for anyone who isn’t American, because America is just the bestest country evah, tries to solve her little brother’s bombing murder by demanding to see her classmates’ passports and screaming at her history teacher to tell her what countries have terrorists”? I don’t know. Dove? [Dove: I think JC’s description is far more accurate. Especially since this was not fast-paced or suspenseful. Whoever wrote the official final line really earned their money making that one up.]
[Note From Future JC: The length of this recap got slightly out of control. Turns out Dove and I had a lot of feelings about this one. You’ll need to set aside a fairly good chunk of time to read it all, or feel free to bookmark and read it in several sittings.]
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