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Teddy can't believe how fast his life has changed in just two years. When he was twelve, his father took off, and then his mother married Henry, a man Teddy despises. But Teddy has no control over his life, and adults make all the decisions, especially in 1959. Henry decides that Teddy should be sent to St. Ignatius Academy for Boys, an isolated boarding school run by the Catholic church.

St. Iggy's, Teddy learns, is a cold, unforgiving place — something between a juvenile detention center and reform school. The other boys are mostly a cast of misfits and eccentrics, but Teddy quickly becomes best friends with Cooper, a wise-cracking, Wordsworth-loving kid with a history of neglect. Despite the priests' ruthless efforts to crack down on the slightest hint of defiance or attitude, the boys get by for a while on their wits, humor and dreams of escape. But the beatings, humiliation and hours spent in the school's infamous "time-out" rooms, and the institutionalized system of power and abuse that protects the priests' authority, eventually take their toll, especially on the increasingly fragile Cooper.

Then one of the new priests, Father Prince, starts to summon Cooper to his room at night, and Teddy watches helplessly as his friend withdraws into his own private nightmare, even as Prince targets Teddy himself as his next victim.

Teddy and Cooper's only reprieve comes on Saturdays, when the school janitor, Rozey, takes the boys to his run-down farmhouse outside of town, the only place where the boys can feel normal — fishing, playing cribbage, watching the bears at the local dump. But even this can't stop Cooper's downward spiral and eventual suicide. And just when Teddy thinks something good might come out of his friend's tragedy, he finds himself dealing with the ultimate betrayal.

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A Troublesome Boy
Average rating
4 / 5
A Troublesome Boy
October 10th, 2014
A very powerful story of two boys who have lead very different but difficult lives. Teddy is angry with this world after his father disappears, finds himself bundled off to a Roman Catholic residential school where he meets Cooper. Cooper has had an even more difficult life. The two become friends of a sort. Teddy is disturbed by the attention some of the priests seem to be giving to the boys, when Cooper becomes a particular favourite of one of the priests. Teddy tries to support Cooper but his downward spiral is hard for a 14 year old boy to understand and deal with. The boys find some solace in the school's janitor. Will it be enough? I often read more than one book simultaneously, but knew that this would not be possible with this book. The realities of residential schools, the physical, emotional, and sexual abuses that took place in them is a sad story, but one that needs to be told. It is being aware of this part of life that we can use to help us ensure that the abuse stops and we can help to heal.
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