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Boot Camp [Mass Market Paperback]

Todd Strasser
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

July 29 2008
In the middle of the night Garrett is taken from his home to Harmony Lake, a boot camp for troubled teens. Maybe some kids deserve to be sent there, but Garrett knows he doesn't. Subjected to brutal physical and psychological abuse, he tries to fight back, but the battle is futile. He won't be allowed to leave until he's admitted his "mistakes" and conformed to Harmony Lake's standards of behavior. And there's no way to fake it. Beaten, humiliated, and stripped of his pride, Garrett's spirit is slowly ebbing away. Then he hears whispers of an escape plot. It's incredibly risky -- if he's caught, the consequences will be unthinkable -- but it may be his only way out.

In this tense, riveting novel, award-winning YA author Todd Strasser reveals what really goes on in highly secretive -- and notoriously dangerous -- boot camps, a stealth prison system where any teenager under the age of eighteen can be imprisoned at his parents' whim.

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From School Library Journal

Grade 8 Up—In this vivid and realistic novel, Strasser describes the horrifying violence and injustices experienced by teens sent to a disciplinary boot camp at the behest of their parents. Abducted by transporters in the middle of the night, 15-year-old Garrett finds himself handcuffed in the back of a car trying to make sense of why he is being sent to a facility for troubled teens. Convinced that he does not belong in Lake Harmony, he has difficulty conforming to the camp's standards. As a result, he is subjected to continuous physical and mental abuse. Drawn in by two other students, Garrett takes part in an ambitious plot to escape this never-ending "behavior modification." Throughout the story, readers are given a strong sense of the hopelessness the teen feels, especially when he realizes that he is completely isolated from anyone who can help him. The ending is both realistic and disturbing as his fate at Lake Harmony is revealed. Writing in the teen's mature and perceptive voice, Strasser creates characters who will provoke strong reactions from readers. While most teens will undoubtedly identify with the protagonist's sense of being misunderstood by his parents, many will be outraged by the manipulation, torture, and hopelessness experienced by the residents at Lake Harmony. However, all of them will certainly find themselves engrossed in this fast-paced and revealing story about the hidden side of teenage incarceration.—Lynn Rashid, Marriots Ridge High School, Marriotsville, MD
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

Louis Sachar's Holes (1998) described a juvenile detention camp with tall-tale trappings. For a somewhat older audience, this documentary-style novel tackles similar "boot camps" without the fablelike buffer, delivering a troubling glimpse of what might go on in such camps (and backing it up with an author's note and sources). Garrett, 15, is trapped in the "secret prison system for teenagers" when his controlling parents, enraged by his affair with a teacher, are lured by the promise of a boot-camp brochure: "The child who returns from the Lake Harmony experience is the child you always knew you had." Once at the camp, Garrett endures a battery of brainwashing techniques, including physical abuse, and eventually meets two other desperate teens who want to escape. Some plot elements don't add up; it's hard to believe, for instance, that the one supportive adult Garrett encounters—a warden—would let the camp continue without blowing the whistle. But as in Strasser's Give a Boy a Gun (2000), the real-world issues will hit a nerve. Mattson, Jennifer --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Courtesy of Teens Read Too Aug. 27 2007
Format:Hardcover
It seems that every time I turn on the TV, there is some program about teen boot camps or wilderness survivals programs designed to straighten out even the most delinquent of teens. Todd Strasser, author of GIVE A BOY A GUN and CAN'T GET THERE FROM HERE, has written a book that takes the reader inside the boot camp experience.

Garrett is from a rich family and goes to a good private school where he is a straight-A student headed for an Ivy League college. He has experimented with smoking pot, but he's definitely not a "pothead." According to his parents, his one unforgivable offense is his sexual relationship with one of his teachers, a woman eight years his senior. According to Garrett, his choices just don't reflect what they want from his life. He thinks his grades and the fact that he stays out of trouble should be enough for them, but because of Garrett's refusal to end his relationship with the teacher, his parents send him to Lake Harmony.

Lake Harmony's staff practically guarantees success. They promise to take any wayward teen and make them the child their parents always wanted to have. On the surface this sounds like quite a deal; however, the teens learn quickly what lies beneath the surface. Lake Harmony offers nothing but torture, brainwashing, poor living conditions, disgusting food, and limited parental contact. Teens in the program spend anywhere from one to three years suffering in this boot camp until most are finally released with broken, damaged spirits.

Strasser takes readers inside the camp where they meet Garrett, Pauly, and Sarah. Although Garret hasn't been there as long as Pauly and Sarah, the three form a special bond and vow to escape before the camp kills them.
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Amazon.com: 4.6 out of 5 stars  35 reviews
20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Courtesy of Teens Read Too May 27 2007
By TeensReadToo - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
It seems that every time I turn on the TV, there is some program about teen boot camps or wilderness survivals programs designed to straighten out even the most delinquent of teens. Todd Strasser, author of Give a Boy a Gun and Can't Get There from Here, has written a book that takes the reader inside the boot camp experience.

Garrett is from a rich family and goes to a good private school where he is a straight-A student headed for an Ivy League college. He has experimented with smoking pot, but he's definitely not a "pothead." According to his parents, his one unforgivable offense is his sexual relationship with one of his teachers, a woman eight years his senior. According to Garrett, his choices just don't reflect what they want from his life. He thinks his grades and the fact that he stays out of trouble should be enough for them, but because of Garrett's refusal to end his relationship with the teacher, his parents send him to Lake Harmony.

Lake Harmony's staff practically guarantees success. They promise to take any wayward teen and make them the child their parents always wanted to have. On the surface this sounds like quite a deal; however, the teens learn quickly what lies beneath the surface. Lake Harmony offers nothing but torture, brainwashing, poor living conditions, disgusting food, and limited parental contact. Teens in the program spend anywhere from one to three years suffering in this boot camp until most are finally released with broken, damaged spirits.

Strasser takes readers inside the camp where they meet Garrett, Pauly, and Sarah. Although Garret hasn't been there as long as Pauly and Sarah, the three form a special bond and vow to escape before the camp kills them.

While reading BOOT CAMP, I found myself gasping at the abuse and needing to set it aside to digest the horrors visited upon these teens. The details are vivid and raw, and, unfortunately, probably more true than anyone would like to believe. Just as many of Strasser's books do, this one will stay with you long after you finish the last page.

Reviewed by: Sally Kruger, aka "Readingjunky"
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars `As long as your parents pay the bills, Lake Harmony doesn't care.' May 2 2008
By Jennifer Cameron-Smith - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Garrett Durrell (aged 15) is sent to a disciplinary boot camp, ironically named Lake Harmony, by his parents. While Garrett initially thinks that all he needs to do is follow the rules in order to be released, he soon learns that it is not that simple. How does Garrett survive, and can he remain true to himself in the process?

This novel covers a number of issues important to teenagers, and to their parents. I am naive enough to hope that those reading the novel will discuss it, and their own reactions to it, with others. Neither parents, nor teenagers, have all of the answers to all of the questions all of the time. But how we confront problems says a lot about the society in which we live and the people we choose to be.

I found reading this novel a confronting and, ultimately, uplifting experience. I suspect that different people will have different reactions but I would dearly love to know how teenagers feel about it. As the parent of an adult child, I miss an opportunity to share reading and discussing this novel with a member of the target audience.

Perhaps the most important lesson in this novel is that no human is infallible, and no process is perfect.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith
14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Richie's Picks: BOOT CAMP June 16 2007
By Richie Partington - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
"We stop before a tall chain-link fence topped with loops of razor wire. A man steps out of a small white booth and shines a flashlight into the car. Rebecca shields her eyes from the glare. I have to turn my face. The man seems to recognize Harry. He unlocks the gate and we drive through, past a dark basketball court and a bare flagpole, and pull into a gravel parking lot.

" 'Here we are.' Harry jumps out of the car with unexpected energy after the long ride. He comes around to my door and pulls me out with a firm grip. After sitting in that awkward position for so long, my legs and back are stiff, and I straighten up unsteadily. But I also feel a brief wave of relief, as standing temporarily takes the excruciating pressure off my bladder, which has felt near bursting for at least half an hour. I shake out my legs and glance around.

" 'Trust me, blue blood, don't be thinking about running, Harry warns. 'Even if you got through the fence, there's nothing but forest out there. You're so far away from civilization, you'll starve before you see another human being.'

"The air is cool and smells like pine. The chatter of the crickets is almost as loud as traffic on a city street. In the dark I can make out four or five buildings, none more than two stories tall.

"Then the crickets go silent.

"And I hear the screaming."

As Todd Strasser explains in his Afterword, there is a secret prison system for teenagers in the U.S. Any parent with enough money can place his or her child in this prison system for any reason or for no reason. The facilities are called boot camps. The methodology in these prison camps can include physical and psychological torture, along with total isolation from people and information out in the real world. Instead, the prison becomes the world. Some of these facilities have now been established outside of the U.S. in order to avoid any possibility of government oversight.

These boot camps yield big bucks for their owners. With what they are being paid each month by parents, there is no financial incentive to have kids "graduate" until they are irrevocably broken down psychologically, and thoroughly trained to listen and obey without question. And it pays to do whatever it takes to give the parents satisfactory results.

In Todd Strasser's BOOT CAMP we share the nightmare experience of Garrett Durrell which begins when his parents have him kidnapped and delivered to Lake Harmony, a boot camp in Upstate New York. Garrett is a gifted and talented adolescent who knows how to maintain the 3.8 average he needs from his exclusive private school -- in order to gain acceptance to a name-brand university -- without breaking a sweat. But his parents apparently fear the tarnishment of their posh reputations due to Garrett's refusal to terminate his relationship with a young woman who had been a new teacher at his school (until his mother got her fired).

" 'You're just a punk kid with a crap attitude, and you don't know squat. When are you gonna figure out that what you think doesn't matter. The only things that matter are what I think and what your parents think. That's why you're here, Garrett. Because you didn't listen to your parents. And that's what you're going to think about in TI, dimwit. Learning to listen. Learning to obey. Learning to do what your parents say.'

"The troll shoves me into the TI room and follows in with Ron and Jon. Joe remains in the doorway.

" 'No marks,' Joe says, and closes the door.

" 'Face down on the floor,' the troll orders.

"I do as I'm told, and then Jon and Ron get to work. They spit and slap and twist and squeeze. Everything that hurts but will leave no telltale bruises tomorrow. I grit my teeth, trying not to let them have the satisfaction of knowing how much pain I'm in, but grunts and yelps escape my lips whenever the stabbing, twisting agony becomes too great. They grind the heels of their shoes into my knees and elbows. Only Level Ones through Fours are required to wear flip-flops, allegedly to slow us down in case we try to run away. Level Fives and Sixes are rewarded by being allowed to wear shoes.

" 'Stop!' I hear myself cry when Ron twists my arm so hard, it feels like it will explode out of the shoulder socket.

"Standing near the door with his arms folded and a demented smile on his lips, the troll asks, 'What's the matter, Garrett? Can't take a little pain?'

" 'I'd like to see you take it.'

" 'WHAT?' the troll shouts. At the same moment Ron twists my arm harder.

" 'Sorry, sir!' I instantly apologize and feel relief as Ron eases up.

" 'You better be,' the troll murmurs.

"The beating stops, and I feel my aching body go limp. Sabrina, if you knew what I'm going through...

" 'Good work, boys.' The troll praises Ron and Jon as they leave, and the door slams shut and locks. So this is how they do it here. The staff can't be accused of harming kids because they have other kids do it for them. And why would Ron and Jon agree? Because you don't get out of Lake Harmony unless you prove whose side you're on."

You have to wait years for Todd Strasser to finish another YA novel, but the wait is worth it. As with GIVE A BOY A GUN and CAN'T GET THERE FROM HERE, Strasser has once again written one of those books that grabs you by the throat and slams you into a wall.

I challenge any adolescent reluctant reader to read a few chapters of this one and then try to put it down.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Couldn't Put it Down! Aug. 22 2007
By Amanda J. Henning - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I was completely immersed in this book from the first page! High schooler Garrett is kidnapped by "transporters" in the middle of the night and sent to the ironically named Lake Harmony which is actually a teen boot camp. Garrett is subjected to an ever-increasing level of abuse at the hands of other detainees (who have already been brain washed by the camp) and counselors until he and two other prisoners hatch a dangerous escape plan. The novel is told in the first person and Garrett's experiences are shocking and realistically drawn.

As I mentioned on a previous comment, I was surprised at the lack of adult content in this novel (considering the subject matter). There is very little cursing, no sexual content, and the violence is in keeping with the theme of the story. Although this book certainly wouldn't be appropriate for younger kids (if for no other reason than the difficult themes represented), I would highly recommend this book for teens and particularly reluctant readers. After page 100, I was glued to this book.. if reluctant readers react to it with anywhere close to the same level of enthusiasm, they're in for an exciting and harrowing story!
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars boot camp May 11 2009
By A. Gift For You - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Mass Market Paperback
how could one not fall in love ith this booki hated reading more than anything and my teacher said i no you hate books but i think youll love this one and i said like the last 50 well anyays i started and it was like i couldnt stop i was hooked this changed the ay i felt about reading 360% percent i love this auther and recomened this book to any one its amazing you feel like your garrett or any of the charecters its soo discretive the ending was by far the best part i felt the emotions it was weard but in a way it helps you see how good you have it
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