I just finished Truancy while sitting in my car waiting form my final visit with my thesis advisor. I have passed out of Thesis I and I’ve registered for Thesis II in the Fall. I’m so close to being done that I can taste it.
Truancy is a really good novel. There are some things that could have been handled better, but over all this going to be a read that I recommend to friends. It has enough action to keep the pages flipping and just enough philosophy and world building to flesh the story out.
A lot happens in this book. I’m still just starting to get my head around it all. Most of the time, I ruin books and short stories by giving away too much of the plot. I don’t really want to do that this time. I think that you’ll want to enjoy it all on your own. Instead, I think that I will go though some of the ideas that characters are struggling with in the novel.
School. What is school? Why go to school? Why is school important? What is the fundamental purpose of school? Why should we want to go to school? Why do we want to send the next generation to school? What should be taught in school? These are the questions that I had to ask myself over and over again while reading Truancy.
The answer that the book as a whole gives, through the plot and the characters, is that school, any way you look at it, is about control. Schools help condition the next generation to become citizens of the larger culture. They teach consequences for things like tardiness – something that a future employer will also not like. They help to break our wild and selfish ways. They prepare us for a world where someone (parents, teachers, bosses) will always hold sway over us. Everyone is accountable to someone else. These are the lessons that come along side of algebra, biology, literature, art.
What is the alterative to an ordered school system? I don’t know. However, the book puts forward two ideas about how to bring about change. These ideas are represented by two people that Tack, the main character, runs into. Zyid is the Leader of the Truancy, a rebellion comprised of students who have either been expelled or left school on their own. Zyid believes, well, he says it best:
“We were taught that we could earn anything that we wanted so long as we sacrificed enough of our dignity to do so. We sold ourselves to the Educators, Takan, from the moment we stepped into the classrooms.” Zyid’s face darkened. “Security and happiness are by no means guaranteed to graduates, but the educators would have us believe that they are. They school us into believing that their way is the only way” (320).
That has to be my favorite quote from the entire book. Zyid represents the aggressive angle. The Truancy uses, gorilla, terrorist methods to fight against the Educators. Zyid hands out orders for assassinations and bombings. The body count is enormous.
However, there is another that proposed diffrent path to elicit change. His name is Umasi and he is pacifist. He teaches that change will come in time. Someday, enough students will have graduated who feel the educational system is broken and needs to fixed, and when that day arrives the old system will be replaced.
The problem is that Ziyd sees a system where the graduates become the Educators they hated in school. Just like the hazing of freshmen on Freshmen Friday, the one day where teachers look the other way, while the upper classes hand out a significant beat down. You would think that when freshmen become part of the upper class that they would remember what it was like to be a freshman. But his is not how the world works. They want their turn to mean.
I’m very impressed that this book was written by a high school student. I had all of the feelings that are in this book while I was in school. I just did not have the words.
Who should read it? In short everyone that has been through an oppressive American style school system. The Truancy provides enough critical reflection to help wake up the next generation and help them to at least ask: Why is all this education really important anyway?
My advice, find this book and read it. My feeling is that the Truancy might very well be the beginning of a new social revolution.
For more fun check out the three part review over at Fantasy Debut:
Truancy - Initial Impressions
Truancy: Hard to Put Down
Truancy: Final Review
Take a look at the really cool website: The Truancy.
Stuyvesant student Isamu Fukui is in a class by himself
BY NICOLE LYN PESCE
Saturday, March 8th 2008, 4:00 AM
Fukui, Isamu. Truancy. New York: TOR, 2008