The Vigilante Poets of Selwyn Academy by Kate Hattemer

vigilante poets

Blurb from Goodreads:

Witty, sarcastic Ethan and his three friends decide to take down the reality TV show, For Art’s Sake, that is being filmed at their high school, the esteemed Selwyn Arts Academy, where each student is more talented than the next. While studying Ezra Pound in English class, the friends are inspired to write a vigilante long poem and distribute it to the student body, detailing the evils of For Art’s Sake. But then Luke—the creative force behind the poem and leader of the anti-show movement—becomes a contestant on the nefarious show. It’s up to Ethan, his two remaining best friends, and a heroic gerbil named Baconnaise to save their school. Along the way, they’ll discover a web of secrets and corruption involving the principal, vice principal, and even their favorite teacher.

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When I saw this title and read the initial blurb, I knew I had to read it. I’m a sucker for a witty protagonist, vigilante world-changers, and prose involving poetry.

For the most part, I really enjoyed The Vigilante Poets and liked Ethan as a character. He’s the kind of guy who falls in love with girls for unusual reasons, like a beautiful neck because it’s the connecting point between the mind and the body, which is kind of cool. He’s smart and funny, but not really over the top nerdy in a way that makes it difficult to relate to him. I also like the main supporting characters of Jackson, Elizabeth, and Luke, though at times it was difficult to follow their conversations full of academic lingo.

The story moves along at a good pace, and I like the Arts Academy setting. The idea of a poetry-based revolution initiated by industriouos students is a dream of English teachers everywhere, including myself. The fact that they are led by their passion to preserve the integrity of their school makes it even better.

There are a few qualities that make this completely unlike anything else I’ve ever read, though. One, for a young adult novel (and most adult novels, really), the vocabulary and the poetry are incredibly advanced. I mean, I’m an English teacher and I wanted to look up some words to make sure I really knew what Hattemer was saying. Plus, Ezra Pound is not an easy poet to read, so there was some having to figure that out on my part. While I can breeze through most books in a matter of a few hours, this one took considerably longer. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, just different.

Another unique quality of this title is found in Hattemer’s style. Ethan is the protagonist and narrator, but sometimes he would address the reader directly, acknowledging that this was a book. I won’t say it went as far as some postmodern-type literature, but it was enough to sort of startle me as a reader because the character was suddenly talking to me. It’s sort of unsettling.

Overall, I recommend The Vigilante Poets of Selwyn Academy. I think it will resonate particularly well with upper teens who enjoy a bit of a challenge in reading material, but want an entertaining challenge. Also, those with an interest in poetry or the impact of Pop Culture on the Arts will enjoy the story of Ethan and his friends.

The Vigilante Poets of Selwyn Academy releases this Tuesday – check it out here on Amazon or at your preferred bookseller!

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