4.7 3
by J. L. Powers

View All Available Formats & Editions

When longtime animosities between a Mexican and a white American student at a Texas high school finally flare into violence, one ends up in the hospital with a broken arm and a fractured ego. A few hours later, the other ends up dead. In the reverb, friends and enemies alike are left to grapple with loss, suspicion, and rapidly escalating racial tensions. Narrated


When longtime animosities between a Mexican and a white American student at a Texas high school finally flare into violence, one ends up in the hospital with a broken arm and a fractured ego. A few hours later, the other ends up dead. In the reverb, friends and enemies alike are left to grapple with loss, suspicion, and rapidly escalating racial tensions. Narrated with brutal candor by six boys—each with a very different take on the week’s events—The Confessional blends murder mystery, contemporary politics, and high school drama to create a gritty, fast-paced read.

From the Paperback edition.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Powers's first novel powerfully combines timely story lines regarding illegal immigration, school violence and racial tension. The first of six narrators, MacKenzie Malone attends a Jesuit high school in El Paso, Tex., where most of the Mexican students have branded him a racist after the controversial letter to the editor he's written appears in the local newspaper. Off his Ritalin (he's traded it for coke) and unable to take the taunting, Mackenzie beats up a Mexican classmate so badly that the guy ends up in the hospital. That night Mackenzie, still narrating, is stabbed to death in his front yard. In subsequent chapters, six boys-among them witnesses, suspects, friends-react to the news and reveal their own disturbing secrets as they alternately narrate. On the surface, the characters fall into stock roles (the closeted gay friend, the brilliant kid hiding behind a stoner persona, the geeky outcast, the peacemaker, and so on), but the author carefully individuates their back stories even as she links the boys via their common fears. If some of the voices sound a little similar and if some of the action seems implausible, the psychological drama as a whole has enough depth and dimension to compensate. The structure Powers builds is ambitious, and she manipulates it for maximum surprise. Ages 14-up. (July)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Children's Literature - Amie Rose Rotruck
Frustrated by American exploitation of Mexicans, a Mexican citizen turned into a suicide bomber on the Santa Fe Street bridge on Cinco De Mayo. One year later, Mac Malone wrote a letter to the paper protesting Cinco De Mayo celebrations out of respect for those who died. When Mac is fatally stabbed, the chain of events sets off a crisis in Jesuit High School. Everyone wants to know who killed Mac, and the remainder of the book is told from various points of view. There is Isaiah Contreras, who witnessed a fight Mac got into the day he was killed, Gregory Gonzalez, Mac's best friend, Alexander Gold, who sees everything but is noticed by few, Daniel Tucker, who is closeted but made a pass at Mac the evening he died, and Jim Hill, determined to solve the mystery. While these boys struggle with Mac's death, the tension at school increases dramatically. This book follows events that, while fictional, are all too imaginable in today's world. Powers manages to give every character a distinct voice that adds to the realism in this very powerful and thought-provoking read. Reviewer: Amie Rose Rotruck
VOYA - Heidi Dolomore
After a suicide bomber on the Texas-Mexico border kills dozens of people on Cinco de Mayo, an El Paso high school student writes a letter to the local paper suggesting that the town cancel all such festivities on the one-year anniversary of the crime. The reaction among students brings racial tensions to the surface, and a day that starts with a schoolyard fight ends in murder. Newspaper clippings and letters relating to the suicide bomber set the scene, and Mac Malone picks up the story on the day of his murder. Mac describes everything that happens right up to the moment that he is killed. After the murder, the story backtracks, and readers relive the events of that day through the eyes of Daniel, a closeted homosexual; Alex, the loner who quietly notices everyone's secrets; Greg, Mac's best friend; and several other students. A group of emotionally charged friends kidnaps Alex for questioning, and as accusations pile up, animosity between Mexicans, Americans, and Mexican Americans builds, eventually erupting in a race riot. As the novel progresses, the story alternates among narrators with increasing speed, and the progressively shorter chapters quicken the pace and mirror the mounting tension leading up to the riot. Readers who enjoyed Gail Giles's Shattering Glass (Roaring Brook, 2002/VOYA June 2002) will appreciate Powers's approach to the psychology of school violence, and fans of books with multiple narrators will be fascinated by the differences in each character's experience of the same events.
VOYA - Laura Woodruff
This ironically titled novel might better be called Teenagers in Hell. "Hey, Mac, heard your mom sucked Principal Ordure's dick last night," begins the second paragraph. Similar barbs lead to a nearly fatal fight between two Jesuit High students, landing one of them in the hospital and the other, shortly thereafter, in the graveyard. It takes nearly three hundred pages to determine exactly who stuck the knife in Mackenzie Malone's back, but as one might expect, the killer is simply the saddest of a very sad lot. Written in diary format, the story involves six boys attending a Catholic school in El Paso, Texas, very near the Mexican border. An illegal immigrant has blown himself up on an international bridge, killing fifty-one others, in protest of terrible treatment at the hands of Americans. Malone writes to the press to suggest abstaining from the upcoming Cinco de Mayo celebration, thereby inflaming long-standing racial tensions at the school. In succeeding chapters, readers become acquainted with Isaiah, the pacifist; Alex, the invisible; Dan, the gay; Greg, the bereaved; Josh, the drug dealer; and Jim, the infiltrator. They witness the action from the characters' various perspectives while learning about their personal traumas, all in their own remarkably graphic language. Unfortunately if there is any lesson concerning redemption, it is essentially lost in the bloody violence of the characters' pathetic lives. Unable to understand their problems or to alter their situations, these teens are testimonies to the failure of adults who are supposed to be in charge.
School Library Journal

Gr 10 Up
When their friend Mac is murdered, seven confused, angry Catholic school classmates seek answers in El Paso, TX, a town defined by boundaries, cultural tensions, and strict allegiances. In looking for the killer, the boys end up embodying Mac himself, who questioned everything: God, his own uncontrollable rage, terrorism, and the volatile relationships between Mexicans and Americans. Powers delves deeply into the psyche of each of the boys, who narrate chapters and fuel the book's momentum. Teens will see themselves in these realistic characters, each struggling with unique challenges. Isaiah tries to make peace in the wars raging in his home and school; Greg looks for someone to pay for his best friend's death; Josh uses drugs to muddle his memory; Dan desperately hides his homosexuality from his best buddy; Alex, the invisible outsider, plays detective; and Jim Hall wrestles unfathomable demons. Through them, readers confront the complicated inner worlds of young people today. The residual effects of religion, immigration, and dysfunctional fathers crowd these boys' minds. Although their language sometimes seems improbably elevated, these characters will reach mature teens eager to hear their own preoccupations echoed and, perhaps, clarified. They might also notice how this distinctly modern vision of adolescence morphs silkily into a clever noir adaptation. As Alex makes rounds visiting suspects, he slips into the clipped speech and hawkish manner of a fedora-wearing private eye. Murder, mystery, and detection pulse through this complex book, keeping readers feverishly wondering who done it and why.
—Shelley HuntingtonCopyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

Kirkus Reviews
Strained racial tensions snap after a student's violent death. MacKenzie Malone's dedication to national pride frays relationships at his El Paso high school, where students are still recovering from last year's suicide bombing of a local bridge by a Mexican national protesting the treatment of immigrant workers. Malone turns up dead hours after a confrontation with a fellow student, and his classmates must examine their own prejudices to restore order in a polarized community. The six distinct voices used to examine the tension between adopted country and ethnic pride rarely falter; the fast pace of events ensure the narrative remains compelling. Convincing friendships and feuds create a sense of the long-standing relationships between classmates and reflect the transitive nature of the high-school social structure. Powers devotes most of his story to establishing those intricate networks, ultimately leaving the motivation for Malone's murder unclear at best. Though the ending is unsatisfying, the depiction of a post-9/11 world revisiting issues of nationalism and prejudice makes this tale relevant to modern audiences. (Fiction. YA)

Product Details

Random House Children's Books
Publication date:
Sold by:
Random House
File size:
2 MB
Age Range:
14 Years

Meet the Author

J. L. Powers’s yen to tell the story of The Confessional began when she worked on a local paper and taught writing in El Paso, Texas. She lives in San Bruno, California.

From the Paperback edition.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >

The Confessional 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I absolutely loved this book
TeensReadToo More than 1 year ago
THE CONFESSIONAL is a book about murder, racism, anger, bullies, drugs, and fitting in, which takes place in an all-male Catholic private school located on the Mexican-American border.

After a random bomber blows up the international bridge that connects Mexico and the United States in El Paso, Texas, tensions escalate at the school. Nearing the one-year anniversary of the Mexican terrorist bombing, a fight breaks out between two boys at the school. One boy ends up in the hospital. The other boy ends up dead by the end of the day.

Mayhem follows. A racial riot erupts on the Cathedral steps after a special mass for the dead teen. Mexicans and Americans point fingers at one another. No one feels safe. Everyone is ready to fight. Will the boys be able to find out who killed their fellow student before someone else disappears? Before someone else is murdered? And at what cost? How many will go to jail before it's all over?

This is a gripping read and difficult to put down. It's an honest look at how quickly tempers can flare and get out of hand. Be warned, the language is also brutally authentic. In the beginning, the reader may struggle to keep all the boys straight in their head as I did. Don't worry about that. This book is told from multiple points of view. As each boy has his say, it becomes very clear who they are and you will have no trouble at all keeping them straight. This novel is incredible in its glaring realism.
EGHunter01 More than 1 year ago
Murder. Mayhem. Confusion. Thrilling mysteries 2 unfold. Have U ever wondered what Ur classmates might really B thinking? Well "walk" in2 the minds of some students in an all male high school and "hear" their thoughts. It may shock U and open Ur eyes 2 the mind of a teen male. Deep and insightful. A great who-done-it challenge.