Asylum for Nightface

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From two-time Newbery Honor Award-winning author Bruce Brooks comes this profound and thought-provoking novel of one boy's exploration of religion and love, faith and rebellion. Fourteen-year-old Zimmerman feels misunderstood by friends and family alike—and the pressure to take a stand is building. Navigating a world charged with religious fervor, he struggles to find refuge within his own beliefs. In this multilayered, absorbing story, Brooks delves into the intense world of ...

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Overview

From two-time Newbery Honor Award-winning author Bruce Brooks comes this profound and thought-provoking novel of one boy's exploration of religion and love, faith and rebellion. Fourteen-year-old Zimmerman feels misunderstood by friends and family alike—and the pressure to take a stand is building. Navigating a world charged with religious fervor, he struggles to find refuge within his own beliefs. In this multilayered, absorbing story, Brooks delves into the intense world of religion and examines what happens when faith is challenged.

Author Biography: Bruce Brooks is a two-time Newbery Honor recipient, in 1985 for The Moves Make the Man, and in 1993 for What Hearts. He has won many other awards and honors, not least of which was being a spazzy assistant coach for his son's travel hockey team. He lives in Burtonsville, Maryland.

A deeply spiritual seventeen-year-old takes a radical step to save himself from the fanaticism of his born-again Christian parents.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
A 14-year-old boy is shocked when his hash-smoking parents return from vacation as zealous converts. "Some readers may be put off by the author's satirical depiction of born-again Christians, others will applaud his attempt to challenge fundamentalism," said PW. Ages 12-up. (Oct.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
More surreal then Brooks's What Hearts?, this philosophical novel does not court mass appeal. Initially, readers may have trouble making connections between the 14-year-old narrator's rambling thoughts about chessboard patterns, images of Christ and comic book collectibles. Those willing to follow the author's winding path, however, will find the nonsequiturs do eventually mesh as the central conflict emerges. The crux of the matter: the sudden transformation of the main character's radical, hash-smoking parents, who undergo a spiritual awakening during a vacation in Jamaica. Mesmerized (or brainwashed) by a charismatic minister, they return home seeking forgiveness from their straight-laced son, Zimmerman. If Zimmerman is skeptical of his parents' overflow of love and admiration, he is downright flabbergasted by their intention to publicly proclaim him a "living saint." Some readers may be put off by the author's satirical depiction of born-again Christians, but others will applaud his attempt to challenge fundamentalism and conventional morality. Ages 12-up. (June)
The ALAN Review - Elizabeth Poe
Fourteen-year-old Zimmerman's parents want to liberate him from his self-imposed spiritual morality. They want him not only to be a member of their family but also to accept their hip lifestyle and rigid unconventionality. Then they find their own religion while vacationing in Jamaica. Now Zim's goodness elevates him in his parents' eyes and makes Pastor Luke Mark John see him as the savior of teens who have been luring their parents away from his Faith of Faiths. Fortunately, before she became a found-again Christian, Zim's mother had provided him the key to the asylum he now seeks, and Zim's fate becomes inextricably bound to Nightface, a thirty-year-old superhero collectors' card. Just as precocious Zim provides a multi-dimensional view of religious groups, so does Brooks' stylistically sophisticated novel present a multi-layered look at parents and teenagers, prodigies and superheroes, and power and manipulation. Thoughtful teens will find much to contemplate in this fascinating first-person account of a young man who wants only to love God and study the grand design of Creation.
Children's Literature - Judy Silverman
Bruce Brooks writes about sin, redemption, sex, and lust-you name it, but you can't put it down. Not for young teens, Asylum for Nightface is short, but intense. Zimmerman (no first name) is having problems at school and at home; his parents are under the influence of a pastor named Mark Luke John, and spend a lot of time talking about Jesus. They want to "save" their son, but he seems to spend a lot of time creating cartoon characters. The plot gets confusing, but the writing is gripping.
School Library Journal
Gr 7-10Adolescence is often a time of experimentation and rebellion, but 14-year-old Zimmerman has spent the better part of his teen years embracing a higher authorityGod. The serious, deeply spiritual young man's successful, sophisticated, and self-indulgent parents are concerned about his "bleached lifestyle" and do their best to try to get him to loosen up, until they go off on a Caribbean vacation and come back as newborn Christians themselves. Unlike their son's religious awakening, the adults' transformation comes not from looking within, but rather through the efforts of a designer guru, Luke Mark John. Worse than the new converts' rote proclamations, joyous outbursts, and apologies for past behavior is the fact that Pastor John, a man who bills himself as Christ's avatar, has plans for Zimmerman to lead young followers to the sect. The boy orchestrates his own fall from grace by the theft of a valuable collectible superhero card. This quirky philosophical novel has much to commend it, but there are some less successful elements. Zimmerman is a complex and compelling character who offers pointed perceptions and humorous insights into his peers' behavior and parental angst. Unfortunately, potentially interesting secondary characters are never fully developed. The flashbacks to the card's creator, whose story parallels Zimmerman's first-person narrative, appear without transition, and even though everything is eventually tied together, there is a great deal of potential for confusion. Overall, though, Brooks provides a provocative look at love, acceptance, and the search for asylum.Luann Toth, School Library Journal
Michael Cart
To the distress of his sophisticated, self-indulgent parents, 14-year-old Zimmerman has "fallen in love with God." But when the adults undergo their own religious conversion, it's time for an attitude about-face. Instead of being embarrassed by Zim, they now decide that he is "marked by God for a holy purpose" and must become a poster boy for their own sect, which needs more teenage converts. The boy's resistance to these designs will ultimately drive him to make a difficult moral decision Brooks has written a sequel of sorts to his 1989 novel "No Kidding", in which he introduced the themes he develops here: religious obsession and the reversal of parent and child roles. Unfortunately, Brooks, like Zim, is too in love with design and structure. As a result, his characters exist mainly for their symbolic value or thematic purpose; and their actions, accordingly, don't arise naturally out of who they are but out of what they represent. For example, the urbane parents undergo a most improbable conversion; the mother, whom Zim has praised for her honor, urges him to steal as an exercise in personal liberation. Also, a subplot involves a child prodigy named Drake Jones, who is too clearly a God-Christ figure. As for Zim, his final choice is never in doubt, and therefore, the book's climax is robbed of dramatic impact That said, there are many moments of Brooks' signature brilliance here, and since he has tackled a difficult subject with passion, the novel is sure to provoke heated--and welcome--discussion. But art is not religion, and, finally, too many questions remain unanswered and too much must be taken on faith.
Kirkus Reviews
Brooks (Boys Will Be, 1993, etc.), at his most cerebral, introduces a moral puzzle in this tale of a teenager being pressured into public sainthood by his parents.

With his strong faith and consuming interest in matters of the spirit, Zimmerman has become somewhat alien to his loving but agnostic parents—pot-smoking, successful professionals who occasionally throw out doubts or temptations just to see if he'll waver. He doesn't, until they come back from a vacation converted to a beach sect billed "The Faith of Faiths" by its charismatic founder, Luke Mark John. Suddenly, Zim is idolized, treated with dewy awe by his mother and father, who eventually let slip the news that Luke Mark John wants Zim to be "poster boy for the Faith of Faiths," to lure younger members into the sect. Zim, who has shied away from organized religion to follow a solitary path, looks upon his parents' zeal with a dubious eye, meanwhile delivering keenly intelligent observations on a variety of subjects, from Jesus ("tough, compulsive, brash . . . intense to the point of being frightening, and definitely, definitely, tired") to the dangers of accepting any opinions, even Holy Writ, uncritically. He is at last driven, rather than led, into temptation; in a desperate effort to save himself from the fate his parents have planned for him, he tries for a jail sentence, or at least some tarnish on his spotless reputation, by stealing a rare trading card. Every character here except the protagonist is a caricature, every twist of the story thoroughly laced with irony. While Brooks exhibits, as usual, that he is a born storyteller with a flair for imaginative detailing, plot takes a backseat to theme in this satiric, intellectual exercise.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060270605
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 6/30/1996
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 144
  • Age range: 12 - 17 Years
  • Product dimensions: 5.82 (w) x 8.58 (h) x 0.74 (d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

From the stone doorway of what used to be a dim hardware store and will soon be a bright video rental center, I watch with surprise as the sunlight slants into Ninth Street, reaching between the four-story Wheeler Hotel and the slightly taller spire of the Episcopal church at the east end of downtown, to light up the gutters. The streets are wet. Must have rained last night. Nice sight. But surprising.

I expected no surprises today. This is a day I have planned. It must unfold along critically placed lines creased in advance. No variables; already thought of everything; I know everything. But I did not know to anticipate this rain, which fell while I slept. It is a small thing, it means nothing, it changes nothing. I simply did not think of it in advance. I am angry with myself. But soon enough I realize this may be the effect of nerves; I am not often angry at anyone.

The sun lifts a bit, and the lower edges of the shop windows begin to shine, and now we have moved into the familiar. An alert watcher can see the orderly sequence of illumination, proceeding along the northern side of the street from right to left, as if a silent lamplighter touched a wick at each storefront in turn: the furniture store, the shoe store (full price), the social services agency, the Christian Science Reading Room, the sporting-goods store, the donut shop, the (former) bookstore (now empty, soon to be a chain sub shop), the bank, the coffee shop, the drugstore, the other shoe store (discount), the other bank, and, on the corner, the tavern.

In the middle, between the sporting-goods store and the donut shop, one window breaks the chain, refuses to light up on cue,registers as a dark blip in the center of the sequence. This is because its windows are angled more sharply back from the sidewalk into a deeper doorway: They do not catch the light.But in just ninety seconds, as if in an afterthought, the sun returns to fix this last spot of night hanging on too long. The angled window is found; its low edge gleams thinly; the line of light grows broader; and the shop joins the rest of the street.

Eventually the light reaches a name stenciled on the window, in red paint over silver foil: Kollektible Kards.

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