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Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Review: The Chamber of Five by Michael Harmon

The Chamber of Five by Michael Harmon.

The Chamber of Five by Michael Harmon

Knopf Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: June 2011
List Price: $16.99
ISBN-13: 9780375866449

Review: Money. Money equals power, and power equals control, Jason, and our government makes sure it stays in the right hands. . . . The lines of power must be maintained, and we are the inheritors of that power, for the good of those who don't know any better. It's why we exist. It's why you were chosen. But, seventeen-year-old Jason Weatherby in Michael Harmon's novel, The Chamber of Five, doesn't agree, and he risks everything to prove that power belongs in the hands of many - not few.

Jason attends Lambert School for the Gifted, but he knows exactly why he was accepted, and it's not because he is anywhere near "gifted", unless that is if they consider his father's bank account as a measure of his IQ. As an influential senator, Jason's father has made sure his son has been always offered the best money could buy. But Jason wants none of it. As Jason struggles with an abusive father and a post in the Chamber of Five (the most influential decision-making body in the school) - a post he never wanted, he also grapples with his desire to change the Lambert School at it's very core. When Jason is given his task to "prove" his loyalty to the Chamber, he knows they have gone too far. Rather than destroy another's life as the Chamber has requested, Jason works from the inside out to destroy the very foundation of his school. He risks everything, including his relationship with his father and even nearly his life, when he sides with those who are truly gifted to stand up against the leaders of the school who are merely monetarily gifted.

The Chamber of Five is a fast-paced novel about the dangers of privilege. The leader of the Chamber, Carter, paints an alarming picture of a corrupt American government. He points out that "Only men who owned land could vote when our country came into being. A small percentage of the population controlled our 'republic' until the law was changed, and it's been a struggle ever since. Our forefathers knew that to give power to the man with nothing would be the beginning of the end for America." His words force the reader to really think about the lines that exist between the rich and the poor, between the leaders and the followers. Put in the context of a high school government, Harmon takes a certainly disturbing concern and brings it to an understandable and poignant level for middle and high school readers. The ultimate message revealed after Jason's quest is an important message for all readers. Certainly mature middle school and high school readers will finish The Chamber of Five with a new understanding, and possibly new fear of politics. Harmon has superbly brought the dark side of politics to the youth of today. By doing so, he might be positively influencing the politics of tomorrow.

Review written by Margo Nauert (6th grade teacher).

We would like to thank Random House for providing a copy of The Chamber of Five for this review.

Have you read The Chamber of Five? How would you rate it?

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