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Paper Trail

by Barbara Snow Gilbert

Published by Front Street, 2000
161 pages
ISBN: 1-886910-44-8

Ages 13 - 16

A tense, riveting novel based on the militia groups whose messages of hate and dissent have occupied the headlines in recent years chronicles the now-endangered life of a teenage boy whose attempt to escape one such group with his parents has turned disastrous. His mother has been killed. His father has disappeared, perhaps to Washington, the boy thinks, reeling with the revelation that his father has been undercover for 10 years in the community the Soldiers of God call home, an agent of the FBI. On the run, in search of safety, the boy sorts through memories of his childhood to try to make sense of the past and of the recent turn of events that have left him unsure of his own identity and in fear for his life. He always knew his parents, like a few others in Red Cedar, never wholly embraced the rhetoric of white supremacy that seemed otherwise part of the fabric of the community, but he'd had no idea of the secret they harbored. When the Soldiers of God find him, the boy's confusion mounts at the smooth reassurance of the leaders that his mother's death was an accident and his father is working for them not the FBI. Barbara Snow Gilbert brilliantly alternates chapters of the narrative story with excerpts of actual newspaper and magazine articles quoting militia members, and reports from organizations such as the Southern Poverty Law Center that monitor hate-group activities, so that it is impossible to deny the realism of events in the storyline that might otherwise seem too outrageous or too disturbing to believe. She also skillfully turns the plot on end in the novel's concluding pages. The result is a twist that is wholly surprising yet consistent with what has come before. It will leave many readers eager to go back to the beginning and start the book all over again. CCBC categories: Fiction for Young Adults; Issues in Today's World. (MS: Oct 30) 2000 Cooperative Children's Book Center

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