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Book Reviews

Behaving Bradley

by Perry Nodelman

Winnipeg author Perry Nodelman’s third comic young adult novel is a satire dealing with the absurdities of modern high-school life.

Brad Gold is an average Grade 11 kid, desperately trying not to attract attention to himself and battling out-of-control hormones and bad hair. When the school principal tries to impose a new Code of Conduct, Brad is drawn into the fray against his will. However, he soon launches a single-handed crusade to introduce mutual respect and make the code apply equally to teachers and students. Brad decides he will get everyone to respect each other “if I have to kill them all to do it.”

His crusade gets him beaten up by the school bullies, insulted by his peers, and loathed by the staff. He perseveres because no one is going to tell him he cannot wear his baseball cap backwards indoors. In a Machiavellian turn of events, Brad succeeds, although he receives no credit and is left wondering about the bewildering complexity of life.

Behaving Bradley is a farce, by turns subversive and very funny. The richest characters are the kids, who range from a drug dealer to a guy who quotes Cicero and is repeating Grade 11 for the fourth time. The adults include a collection of stupid, shortsighted parents and some childish and occasionally evil teachers. The characters are exaggerated, which aids the humour but takes the bite out of the subversion, and the one scene where Brad glimpses a sympathetic side to the teachers is jarring.

Teenagers will be able to relate to the book’s hip writing style although it runs the risk of becoming dated quickly. Some adults may object to some of the language and themes, but the book’s audience will understand Brad’s problems and cheer his fight against the inequities of the school system.