Is “the District” in THE POWER CLUB Evil?
A review of my novel, THE POWER CLUB, appeared recently on Amazon.com. The reviewer, Duane Porter, gave a glowing review (thanks, Duane) and recommended the book for “the impressionable age” for which the book is targeted.
(One correction: Although Damon, the principle character, is 11 in the first chapter, he’s 13 for the rest of the book—hence the “young adult” tag.)
It’s always interesting to read what others have to say about your book. For one thing, it lets you know what works and what doesn’t in the novel. Second, readers add their own insights and interpretations to the work, extending it beyond the author's imagination and into a shared experience.
For example, one of Duane's comments struck me:
The story holds true to Damon's innocence at his tender age; he knows "the district" where kids with special powers like him are quarantined isn't fair; but he hasn't picked up yet on the fact that the government may lean more toward evil. Think Hunger Games. Damon faces bullies (can anyone identify with that problem?) and unfair treatment by teachers and other government workers.
The comparison to The Hunger Games is both flattering and interesting. I wrote most of THE POWER CLUB before I saw The Hunger Games film last year, and I have not read any of the HG books. Of course, Suzanne Collins is not the first author to explore the theme of child heroes opposing a totalitarian government. And while that idea is somewhat present in THE POWER CLUB, it exists on a very different scale than in The Hunger Games.
What is evil?
From Damon’s perspective, the district is certainly a repressive society where kids with powers (like him) have very little freedom. They cannot even use their powers in public unless they follow certain rules, such as joining special clubs. The district, in other words, adds another layer of rules on top of those he must already follow: rules imposed by school, parents, and culture.
To kids, rules often appear evil—particularly when they make no sense.
- For example, why does the district require kids to be 12½ before they can join special clubs? Why not 12 or 13?
- Why does the district allow special clubs to get away with behavior, such as the destruction of personal property, that would be considered criminal if others engaged in them?
- Why doesn't the district intervene when ords (ordinary people) break into the district and cause chaos?
To Damon, none of this makes sense—and the district isn’t about to explain itself to him (or to anyone else, for that matter).
To do good, you must do . . . evil?
But is the district evil?
Let's look at a couple of real-world analogues.
Two of the most hotly debated issues of the past several months have been Obamacare and gun control. Both those in favor of and against such legislation make arguments to support their views, but it all comes down to lawmakers making decisions that affect everyone while being unable to please everyone.
Obamacare, for example, has been lauded for extending healthcare to many who did not previously have access to it, including those with pre-existing conditions; yet it also requires all U.S. citizens to have health insurance, even those who cannot afford it, or face a tax penalty.
The gun control debate baffles me. In general, I have no problem with people owning rifles or even handguns. But the discussion over assault weapons gets clouded by people wanting to protect the Second Amendment at, apparently, any cost. Some oppose any sort of regulation on guns under the misguided notion that guns protect everyone. (They don’t. As with any tool, guns rely on intelligence, common sense, responsibility and sometimes dumb luck to be used properly. )
At the heart of both Obamacare and gun control are some very real and shared desires: We all want to be healthy and we all want to protect ourselves.
But achieving those desires . . . that's where things get complicated.
What Damon doesn't know . . .
Similar machinations are going on behind the scenes in Damon's world. These are things he is not aware of and won’t be for some time, but they boil down to this:
Politicians and administrators make decisions that affect the kids in the district. Some decisions are made for political expediency or compromise. Other decisions are made to test the bigger picture: What happens if powered kids do this? What are the upper limits of their powers? A few decisions are made with the kids' welfare in mind, and several are made with the intent of exploiting them.
Just like in the real world.
Tell me what you think: Is the district evil?