Parents' Choice Foundation: Reviewing Children's Media Since 1978

The Cruisers

The Cruisers

Fall 2010 Fiction
Ages: 9 - 12 yrs.
Author: Walter Dean Myers
ISBN: 9780439916264
Hardcover Price: $15.99

Zander Scott is an 8th-grader at DaVinci Academy, a school for gifted and talented students in Harlem. Problem is, he and his friends, the "Cruisers," are slacking. To fix this, their frustrated principal gives them a unique assignment. As the school studies the Civil War, the Cruisers must broker a peace agreement between the North and South.

The student who leads the South is white and, in character, he aggressively defends the South's position. The line between role-playing a part from nearly 150 years ago and the characters' present day personalities are immediately blurred, and emotions flare. The issues are complex -- race, personal freedom, freedom of speech, self-respect - and each of the main characters struggle with them. In the story's climax, the black students take a daring stance that pays off, as it forces everyone to talk. The students question what they once thought, or didn't think, and examines events in history from different angles. Race isn't the only issue they consider. The students struggle to understand whether war is inherently bad, or if it's instead vindicated as the catalyst for ending slavery for good. There is nothing neat or trite in the characters' conclusions. They are bright kids from broken families who know very well that answers don't come easily.

Author Walter Dean Myers has written over 80 books and has mastered his craft. This is a book that is meant to trigger discussion. In our contemporary climate where debate is often lost to sound bites and thought expression is sometimes stifled by political correctness, The Cruisers is a constructive exercise in critical thinking.

Teresa DiFalco   ©2010 Parents' Choice
Teresa DiFalco is an award-winning ghostwriter, writer, and mother in Vancouver, Washington. She's been a contributing editor for Parents' Choice for over ten years. She's a strong speller, a menace at badminton, and makes a decent soufflé.

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