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The Vigilante Poets of Selwyn Academy

by Kate Hattemer

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23316103,844 (3.77)2
"When a sleazy reality television show takes over Ethan's arts academy, he and his friends concoct an artsy plan to take it down"--

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Review to come. Note the five stars. This was amazing, made me laugh, and taught me some new grammar.

Full review here: http://literarymatchmaker.blogspot.com/2015/04/vigilante-poets-dirt-bikes.html ( )
  readingbeader | Oct 29, 2020 |
4.5 I love books about smart kids. This is a smart book about smart kids -- double bonus. The narrator, Ethan Andrezejczak is friends with Jackson, Luke and Elizabeth and all are juniors at Selwyn Academy for the Arts. This year is unique because the school is inhabited by a reality tv show: For Arts Sake on kTV and 20 students are competing for a scholarship to the college of their choice. It is down to about 5 contestants -- entering a chilly spring in Minneapolis where the story is set and heading to the end of the school year. The "fake" reality and the interruptions are starting to wear on the student body, particularly Ethan and his friends. "The show wasn't for art's sake. It was art forsaken. It was for money's sake, for greed's sake, and it was commercialized and fake... Beautiful vitality, brilliant rottenness, a luxuriant variety of both: that had been the whole school year." (310) In addition, Ethan has a unrequited crush on Maura Heldsman, a senior, a prima ballerina and a favorite to win the scholarship -- however, she is portrayed as the "resident slut" -- hooking up with various boy contestants to increase the drama and appeal of the show. (though it is thankfully a PG portrayal) His heart slowly breaking, Ethan refuses to believe that's the "true" Maura and tries to get to the bottom of her behavior, which is essentially her drive to win at all costs. Meanwhile, while studying Ezra Pound's work (smart!) in English class, Luke gets the idea to write an epic poem lambasting kTV and the show. The group works together to illegally publish and distribute the Contracantos throughout the school. They also begin some investigative work on the TV show and find out it is making big money off the students, and some administrators are getting kick-backs. Hilarity ensues (and drama) as the group hatches capital-letter plans to try to thwart the show, its producers and ultimately the powers-that-be. What teenager can resist? Luke is tempted to the dark side when the show discovers he is the author of the vigilante verses and that turncoat behavior also rings true to high school. With determination to DO something, some amazing creativity and the help of an intrepid gerbil named Baconnaise (all Jackson's pets are named after condiments), the teens succeed in their plan. This is pretty clean despite the age of the characters and resonates as real kids encountering an unfair situation that they believe they have the power to change. A little far-fetched at times but funny, sweet, smart and self-aware. ( )
  CarrieWuj | Oct 24, 2020 |
This book by Kate Hattemer turned out to be a delight, not only because it is written with smart kids in mind (and yes, there are a LOT of smart young people out there), but because it is different. The plot is unique, the students' personalities are not cookie cutter, and neither are their relationships with one another. Even with all these great things going for it, thematic value is the book's best asset, offering a glimpse into the poetic, emotional, and comedically dark minds of certain high schoolers. Ezra Pound, a handful of unusual teachers, a gerbil, and a television reality show all play important roles in a story that reminds the reader that no matter how dramatic high school is, the cogs that make up the machine are real people with deep feelings and a human craving to band together to do what's right...even if not everyone is on board! A perfect book for your smarter high school students. ( )
  LTManning | Mar 7, 2020 |
One Way I Could Start This Review
I requested an advance reader’s copy through NetGalley (thank you, Random House!) based on the title alone because, come on, vigilante poets? I could just imagine them riding into town, pens drawn, ready to whip out a verse at the first sign of injustice. And they do! When their elite arts academy becomes the location for the reality show, “For Art’s Sake,” Ethan and his best friends protest by writing a long poem that they secretly publish and distribute. Inspired by their English teacher’s lectures on Ezra Pound, they call their paper “the contracantos” which becomes a big hit with the students. The consequences, however, are entirely unexpected and for Ethan in particular, distressing.

Another Way I Could Start This Review
Do you like character-driven stories with quirky plot devices? Do you enjoy smart and funny dialogue and realistic settings? Intrigued over furry pets named after condiments or bossy four year-old triplets with a Candyland fixation? Are you wondering what an interrobang is? Say “yes” to any of these questions and grab a copy of The Vigilante Poets of Selwyn Academy. Don’t let the cover put you off—I’m not even sure who those guys are supposed to be.

The Third Way I Could Start This Review (and then I’ll be done, I promise)
If you count Maureen Johnson, A.S. King, Rainbow Rowell, and John Green among your favorite authors, get ready to add Kate Hattemer to your list. Her first novel, The Vigilante Poets of Selwyn Academy, is an engaging and witty romp that manages to put another spin on reality tv and, at the same time, have readers musing over Ezra Pound, punctuation, and the recurrent use of tricolons. Like the YA authors mentioned above, Ms. Hattemer has a great ear for dialogue and her characters, especially narrator Ethan, are earnest and impassioned, smart and self-deprecating. Their camaraderie is the soul of the book and anchors all the crazy antics that follow. These are the kinds of friends everyone wants in high school.

Against all the chuckles, the deceptions, the crazy scheme to take back the school, there are very real messages here about art and principles. Can art stand alone? Should it be measured by the beliefs of the artist who created it? Is it acceptable to compromise oneself for art’s sake? While there are no easy answers, there is certainly much to laugh over and reflect upon. Spend time with Ethan and his friends and you’ll be hoping, like me, that Kate Hattemer hasn’t entirely closed the book on these unforgettable characters.
( )
1 vote lillibrary | Jan 23, 2016 |
Ethan can not relate. He can not relate to his four-year-triplet sisters who pop out of cereal cabinets and call him "D-U-M-B". He can not relate to the other students at his private school for the arts who all seem to be way more talented than him, and he REALLY can not relate to the unapproachable and beautiful ballet dancer, Maura, who is a contestant in the reality tv contest that is being controversially filmed at his school. But Ethan has friends who can relate to him as they furtively work together on an evolving plan to take down the powers that promoted the reality show that is ruining their school. Hattemer's clever debut novel highlights Ethan's cloying yet painful interactions with the unattainable girls he consistently falls in love with as he attempts to find the truth about his school, his friends, and himself. Young adult readers will be charmed by Ethan's honesty, by his friends Jackson and Elizabeth (and sometimes Luke), and by the heroic gerbil that ultimately saves the day. ( )
  MzzColby | Aug 7, 2015 |
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