Have you ever cut school? Would you if you knew that if you were caught, you’d be killed? This is the world that Tack lives in—school is truly totalitarian, and the punishment for even small transgressions (talking back to the teacher, questioning the rules) is severe. Truancy by Isamu Fukui follows Tack’s journey as he realizes that the current system is not the only way, loses someone important to him, and joins the Truancy, the resistance movement with the goal of freeing the City’s children from the wrath of the Educators.
Written when the author was 15 years old and extremely dissatisfied with the education system (he’s 17 now, and has just graduated from high school), Truancy looks at what goes wrong when one group has too much power over another in a near-future nameless City. It’s also packed with action —Tack is trained (both mentally and physically) and mentored by Umasi, a boy he meets in an abandoned sector of the City, and then soon becomes second in command to Zyid, commander of the Truants. Their missions include supply raids, assassinations, and all out battle with the Enforcers, all with the hope of bringing the Educators, the Mayor, and their oppressive system down.
Tack is not a straightforward character—he doesn’t join the Truancy because he’s bullied at school by both other students and by the teachers. His first motive for joining the Truancy is revenge—someone he loves was caught in the crossfire during one of the Truancy’s actions, and was killed. Tack vows to find the assassin who killed with seemingly no emotion, and make him pay. Once he’s involved in the organization, he starts to learn about the goals of the Truancy, and begins to sympathize with the cause. He eventually has to make choices about where his true loyalties lie.
Find out a little more about the author’s inspiration and creative process (he wrote the novel in a month over summer break) in this NPR interview, and visit Truancy’s official web site here. If you enjoy the book, you’ll be happy to know that a trilogy is planned, Fukui is working on a prequel, Truancy Origins, to be published in early 2009, and will start on a sequel shortly thereafter. He plans to complete his work while still involved in the educational system (he plans to attend NYU). Fukui is worried about losing his anger at the system which inspired Truancy in the first place once he’s no longer entrenched in it. I was happy to hear that Fukui will be revisiting this world for a few reasons—whenever I read a dystopian novel, I always crave more information as to how the society got that way—was it a slow, almost imperceptible shift, or did change happen suddenly? Was resistance present from the beginning, or did the anger and frustration take a long time to build up? I’m also very curious about the backgrounds of Umasi and Zyid, and how they came to their very different belief systems and methods of resistance.
A good read for anyone who's already dreading going back to school in the fall.