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Below the sign welcoming the new eighth-grade class to
school is one that promises to leave no child unsuccessful
and a handout that offers eight ways of being smart. For
Edwin Hanratty, at times as hilarious as he is miserable,
this is part of what makes junior high pretty much a
relentless nightmare. And so, with Flake, his only friend,
he contends with clique upon cliqueâ€”the jocks who pummel
them, the girls who ignore or taunt themâ€”as well as the
dogged and disconcerting attentions of a sixth-grader whoâ€™s
even more ferociously disaffected than they are. And while
Edwinâ€™s parents work hard to understand him, they face
without fully realizing it a demoralization so systemic
that he and Flake have no recourse other than their own
bitter and smart remarks, until they gradually begin
flirting with the most horrible revenge of all.
This lethal impulse, which has touched communities across
America, has never been given such shocking credibility as
it has in Project X, which suggests that these boysâ€™
central predicament is not their hatred of the world but
their agonized and enduring love of it. Never before has
Jim Shepardâ€™s compassionate virtuosity been on such
conspicuous, unsettling, and haunting display.
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