A tyrannical high school principal.
A young anarchist with nothing left to lose.
One way or another, this place is goin’ down.
Matt Moyer is an orphaned teen growing up on a primitive farm in the Pennsylvania coal region. He’s homeschooled by his eccentric and philosophical great-uncle, who’s a stickler for logic, reason, and intellectual honesty. Despite his uncle’s reverence for veracity, inconsistencies arise regarding the old man’s shady past and the teen’s parents.
Through a harrowing sequence of events, Matt is forced to attend a public school. The feral teen finds it difficult to cope with the hypocrisy, propaganda, and misinformation that adults and children so readily accept. Faced with the possibility of expulsion, arrest, and ostracism, he must make a choice. Will he choose the easy lie or the hard truth?
(Note: Adult language and content.)
Why, oh why are homeschoolers in literature and video always eccentric? I'm sure a percentage are, genuinely a little odd, but I feel also that some of this view is held because mainstream society is maintained by teaching children into conform and preserving the status quo. (Wo. That was a mouthful!) Public schools really don't know what to make of homeschoolers, either. Oftentimes, they cannot conceive that individual parents, instead of the public education system, can teach their children what the children will need to know to function as adults.
This is the world which Phil M. Williams presents us in Against the Grain. The opening scenes show Matt doing some chores around his uncle's farm (gathering honey, picking peaches), then carting the produce to a main road to sell. We also meet a girl from the town and several bullies who probably would have been Matt's classmates if he went to public school. We don't learn (until after the 'normal' discussion between Matt and the girl) that she is apparently overweight. The bullies make reference to it, in a derogatory manner. Then they turn their disdain to Matt, calling him 'Amish', intimating that he is homosexual, and use racial epithets. This is what people do to that which they do not understand. They label it 'other than us' and seek to feel superior to whatever 'it' is.
Anyway, off my soapbox and back to the book. And that is only the beginning of Matt's troubles. Eventually, he is forced to go to public school. Entering the system as someone who has lived outside of it for most of his life, Matt sees straight away the hypocrisy of the system. The system values conformity over individualism, and does not hesitate to send free thinkers through stringent 're-education', designed to make them follow the flow with the rest of the students.
You may be wondering about some of my 'anti-establishment' rhetoric. Yes, we have homeschooled our three children. The youngest is now 12. The two older children went for at least a time to public school. The last straw for us was when we went to the district over what seemed unequal treatment of our children. Shortly after, the primary (Pre-K through 2nd grade) principal told us we had a meeting with her and said, "How dare you go over my head." Oh. My. Goodness. We withdrew both children a week before school let out for the year and have never looked back.
And the principal we faced was a pussycat compared to the one at Matt's school. So, we know all to well the price we pay for bucking the system. My mother's heart almost ached for Matt as he encountered problem after problem trying to adjust to his 'new normal'.
I enjoyed Mr. Williams use of description. He gave enough information to engage my senses, so I experienced the book not just by sight of the words, but of the scene - how it looked, what sounds there were, etc. It isn't often I will read something by an author previously unknown to me then add the rest of his or her works to my TBR. In this case, I will one day read every work of fiction written by Phil M. Williams.
MEET THE AUTHOR
Phil M. Williams is an author, activist, blogger, and consultant. He lives in Central Pennsylvania with his wife, Denise, where he writes and tends his permaculture farm. He is the author of Fire the Landscaper, Against the Grain, Stone Lake, and co-author of Farmer Phil’s Permaculture. His new releases can be read for free at PhilWBooks.com.
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(Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the author and publishers in exchange for my honest review. This post contains one or more affiliate links.)