Altered – A Review

Title: Altered
Author: Aubrey Coletti
Genre: YA thriller with some paranormal
Publisher: Escape Artist Press

Blurb: When Toni, Joseph and Charlie arrive at their new boarding school, they are glad to leave their families – and respective problems – behind. Isolated as boarders, they meet a handsome senior with a personality like iced snake’s blood, teachers with a penchant for physical punishment, and four other outcasts who reveal that their being brought to the Academy wasn’t random at all. When the arrivals discover that their new school is engaged in “behavior modification” through electric shocks, isolation, restraints, and an ever-evolving set of methods to “fix” them, they declare war on their Academy. During their campaign of sabotage, they fight, hate, scorn, love, and begin to uncover the reasons why they were brought to the school. But as their war against the school escalates beyond their control, will they become the very things the Academy believes they are: dangerous, delinquent – and mad?

My Review:

This book was written by Aubrey Coletti between the ages of 15 and 18. A teen wrote this book and I think it shows in the way the characters interact and behave. It gives a truly unique perspective on the events in the story even if that perspective is somewhat immature.

First Line: “The headmistress opened her private files, and logged the date before beginning.” – Not the most enthralling opening line but it does hint that something ominous is about happening and lends a sense of foreboding.

What I Liked: The premise. A bunch of troubled teens are brought together in a reform style school and start discovering that maybe they’re not just ‘troubled’ but special. I liked this underlying thread of optimism although it was a minor thread and was often stomped on by the bleak series of events unravelling in the plot. The cast of characters. The author managed to filter the story through multiple perspectives giving us a glimpse into each of the teen’s lives. I really appreciated the ambition of this approach and how well the various characters were portrayed, as well as the ethnic and socio-economic diversity present in this book. I would’ve liked to know more about Melvin though but perhaps that’ll come in the next book.

What I Didn’t Like: I struggled with several parts of this book: The violence and abuse leveled at these teens just floored me. I’m a teacher of 14/15 yr olds myself and to think that any teacher could stand by and do nothing as these kids are tortured and abused just made me furious to the point where I wanted to hurl the book across the room. Now, according to the preface of the book, schools like this one apparently exist. I’m not sure I can believe that and if they do then that is just appalling and the administrators and parents need shock therapy of their own. The age of the teens. These kids were mostly freshmen, as young as 14. This book contains heavy swearing – I know how foul teenage mouths can be – but the language got a bit much. I also know that teens as young as 14 are having sex but I don’t want to read about it in romance-novel style detail. There’s one scene I actually skipped because it made my feel too uncomfortable.

Bonus Points: The loyalty these kids had for each other. That really endeared these characters to me even when they were foul-mouthed angst-ridden brats.

Rating: I’m torn about the rating. Although this book was written by a teen, I’m hesitant to recommend this book for teens considering the content and generally dark theme. Comparing it to other YA novels I’ve read I couldn’t give this book more than 2 stars. Had the characters been older, say around 18, and handled their situation with a little more maturity and less melodrama I would have been more comfortable with the language and sexual content and would be fine rating this 3 or 3.5 stars for an upper YA or adult audience. For this reason I’m going to skip the star rating and recommend that people decide for themselves, but potential readers be warned that the content in this book probably isn’t suitable for younger readers.

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