Truancy by Isamu Fukui
In an alternate world, in a nameless totalitarian city, the autocratic Mayor rules the school system with an iron fist, with the help of his Educators. Fighting against the Mayor and his repressive Educators is a group of former students called the Truancy, whose goal is to take down the system by any means possible - at any cost.
Against this backdrop, fifteen-year-old Tack is just trying to survive. His days are filled with sadistic teachers, unrelenting schoolwork, and indifferent parents. Things start to look up when he meets Umasi, a mysterious boy who runs a lemonade stand in an uninhabited district.
Then someone close to Tack gets killed in the crossfire between the Educators and the Truants, and Tack swears vengeance. To achieve his purpose, he abandons his old life and joins the Truancy. There, he confronts Zyid, an enigmatic leader with his own plans for Tack. But Tack soon finds himself torn between his desire for vengeance and his growing sympathy for the Truants…
When I got asked to review the Truancy series, I first had to look up what this series was to start with as I was not familiar with the author, Isamu Fukui. I soon found out that Isamu had written this first book in the series when he was only 15 years-old himself... To be fair I got a bit cautious, though I heavily support young authors in their endeavours to write, the books sometimes do not fully come together. But putting that thought aside and reading the synopsis, I really wanted to read these books, having already read a lot of YA fiction in 2012, this was a theme that I had not had the chance to read yet, featuring a heavily controlled school system and rising against it a band of rebels… or are they? Truancy is not only packed full with action but for me also put me to thinking of who, the Educators or the Truants, are right…
Truancy story revolves around a very strict educational system controlled and applied by the Educators and the Enforcers, who are under direct control of the Mayor, who himself leads the City. Do not think that what the Educators and Enforcers have in store if you break a rule is the writing up of a few lines on the blackboard - No, the consequences in Truancy are much more heavy. This books is actually pretty violent in the action scenes, featuring on more than one occasions a few deaths and some spilled blood. For me it took actually a few pages to adjust to this setting; I mean this not in a bad way but I had to come to appreciate the total setting and the combination of the Truants and the Educators. Like I mentioned, on more than one occasion I swapped sides for either the Educators or the Truants. Somehow they both had arguments that struck me as quite reasonable, and in the end I truly liked what was put there. OK, coming back to the story itself. On the other side you have the rebels against the Educators, The Truants. They are made up of high school students that have been expelled, or have dropped out of school, either by the hands of the Educators or voluntarily. You see most of the story unfold through the eyes of several Truant members. But first the main protagonist of the story, which is Tack. As I got to read about his character in the beginning, while he was still attending school he already had to slight nudge of rebelliousness against the oppressive educational system, but on another side it also felt that he wanted to do right by getting good grades, being treated fairly and not letting his parents down. Tack was put away in a great way which allowed me to really feel for his character and I think a lot of younger readers will feel the same for him.
Truancy is divided into three parts, the first part of the book centred more around Tack and his sister Suzie who were coping in and around school. This first part of the book ended in quite a violent and tragic confrontation between the Educators and the Truants, where Tack was caught in the crossfire. It was by these events that Tack’s character is taking some tremendous leaps in terms of development. Becoming very determined to put to justice of what was done to him. And in the second part he finds himself in a world full of action and violence, the struggle for the upper hand of the city between the Truants and the Educators. In his quest for revenge Tack gets deeper and deeper into the ranks of the Truants and soon becomes a favourite of their leader Zyid. Actually from this second part of the book a lot of things are falling neatly together, especially as you read about the relation between Umasi and Zyid and what actually came to pass previously and what the role of the Mayor is. All in all these parts complemented each other quite nicely.
But then something unexpected happened in the book. Umasi, who taught Tack some pretty cool stuff with weapons and fighting, becomes more involved. Umasi is a pacifist who prefers making lemonade over choosing a side. In his past he has trained others like Tack... that did not turn out quite how he wanted it to… Isamu used this to add a new addition to the storyline. Edward. Who thwarted Umasi, nobody knew that he was still alive, but Edward might just be the single push that the Educators need to win from the Truants. It is after the introduction of Edward that the story really takes off, going from a mad battle to full chaos in the city. I was very pleased to read these final confrontations, though they were violent on one side, they did fit in the overall picture that I think Isamu wanted to put out with Truancy. Added to this is the fact that there was not an overwhelming action but that there was also enough time spared to highlight the small detail in the surroundings and the relations between several other characters.
Just in summary: Truancy is a great debut considering it was written when Isamu Fukui was just 15 years old. The setting and the writing style of the book will appeal to many younger readers. There are more than enough fighting scenes featuring ceramic swords, guns, helicopters and RPGs, and all in all they are a great pleasure to read. This non-stop action was not overshadowing the book for me at all. Next to the action there were entire paragraphs dedicated creating a scene around Tack and his coping within this harsh world and how he perceived both sides, The Educators and The Truants. And these two combined made Truancy a great book. And I am really looking forward to start on the prequel Truancy Origins and the sequel Truancy City as soon as possible.
This Truancy book review was written by Jasper de Joode
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