Zach is repelled by the street violence around him, even as he sometimes joins in. But the violence hits close to home when his father is shot during a robbery. When the subject goes free for lack of evidence, Zach needs to see justice done, even if he has to do it himself.

Zachary, living with his divorced mother in California, finds violence gradually invading his life and making significant changes in his day-to-day existence.

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Zach is repelled by the street violence around him, even as he sometimes joins in. But the violence hits close to home when his father is shot during a robbery. When the subject goes free for lack of evidence, Zach needs to see justice done, even if he has to do it himself.

Zachary, living with his divorced mother in California, finds violence gradually invading his life and making significant changes in his day-to-day existence.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The first few chapters of this sober, ambitious novel seem oddly disconnected: the narrator, Zachary Madison, incites a news-making brawl, finds an abandoned gun, describes the theft of his car and flashes back to his impulsive decision to quit high school. With these dark events Cadnum (Taking It; Zero at the Bone) establishes an ominous tone that foreshadows a cataclysmic act of violencethe near-fatal shooting of Zachary's divorced father, a highly respected science writer. Zachary puts on a stoic front as his thoughts skitter from past incidents (which now take on a deeper meaning) to fantasies of revenge against the man responsible for paralyzing his father from the neck down. Throughout, Zachary's mother's affection for her ex-husband ("She always imagined Dad would remarry for a third time, to her, his first wife") is more pointedly conveyed than her son's attitude, which, realistically, mixes glimmers of resentment with respect for his father. While the story's nonlinear movement is dramatically effective at times, abrupt transitions may confuse all but sophisticated readers. As a whole, the book has the same steeliness of the author's earlier works, but lacks their tautness and full complement of suspense. Ages 12-up. (Aug.)
Children's Literature - Michelle H. Martin
Not unlike Robert Cormier and S.E. Hinton, Michael Cadnum understands well the art of opening the contents of an adolescent's mind to readers. Firmly situated within the genre of the young adult problem novel, Edge details a brief period in the life of one sixteen-year-old high school dropout. Zachary Madison's narration intersperses important events in his life(his father's nearly-fatal encounter with a car-jacking gunman, his own involvement in a gang fight, his attempt to shoot his father's assailant(between thoughts and observations about the behavior of the people around him. Recalling the night that he went to jail for throwing a kid through a shop window in a street brawl, Zachary comments of the jailer, "People can be nice at the strangest times, giving someone about to be booked for assault a paper towel so he can wipe the ink off his fingers." Strategically using detail and subtlety narrated flashbacks throughout the novel, Cadnum deposits multiple layers of the past onto the present as Zach tells his story. The protagonist's mastery of understatement and his tendency to narrate snapshots rather than whole episodes combine to create an intense and rich reading experience.
VOYA - Kellie Shoemaker
Zachary is a quitter. He walked away from school in his junior year, he has been withdrawing from his girlfriend and his family, and he does not seem too interested in his job, even though it was important to him a few months ago. In fact, Zachary does not care very much about anything these days. He is living on the edge of his own life, watching everyone else interact around him without getting very involved himself. However, when Zach's father is seriously injured in an assault, Zach is forced to become more connected to his parents and the world around him. He tries to comfort his mother and take care of things around the house, but he is confused by the intensity of his own feelings and frustrated by what he sees as complacency in others. When his father's attacker goes free because of a lack of evidence, Zach remembers the gun he found and buried in his backyard last summer, and decides that it is up to him to change the course of destiny and bring justice to this sad situation. Zach is similar to characters in other Cadnum books in that he is detached, seemingly uncaring, and self-destructive while also being very likeable and sympathetic. He is typical of many teenage boys, who attempt to hide the things they care about under a facade of toughness and distance. Zach reveals endearing details to the reader, such as his studying diligently for the GED test even though he pretends otherwise when questioned by his father. He resists urges to touch people, to say caring things to them, or to talk about himself, but the reader sees these impulses and understands why he does not want to make himself vulnerable. The plot is secondary to Zach's psychological development, but the events provide the occasions and situations that are necessary for Zach to re-enter his own life before it is too late. As usual, Cadnum has given us a thoughtful, sensitive, and realistic look at a teenager who must find the courage to deal with a difficult situation. VOYA Codes: 5Q 4P J S (Hard to imagine it being any better written, Broad general YA appeal, Junior High-defined as grades 7 to 9 and Senior High-defined as grades 10 to 12).
School Library Journal
Gr 9 UpZachary is an angry young man who is both attracted to and repelled by the violence he sees around him. He has dropped out of high school and become estranged from his girlfriend, and his best buddy has moved away. His rage, kept mostly in check, explodes sporadically in vicious fights. In the aftermath of one such melee, he finds a .38 and buries it in the garden. He lives comfortably with his divorced mother but has little enthusiasm for anything; his only goal is to pass his high school equivalency test. Then one day he gets a call telling him that his father has been shot during a robbery. As he watches the critically wounded man on the edge of death, he struggles to make sense of his own life. When the suspect is set free because of a lack of witnesses, Zachary digs up the handgun and tracks him down with the intent to kill him. At the last moment, he is unable to pull the trigger. Cadnum tells a thought-provoking story full of rich, well-developed characters. He immediately engages readers' attention and brilliantly maintains the pacing; tension is enhanced as scenes end abruptly. Well written, in language both simple and gripping, this book explores a variety of themes including the attraction of revenge, the tension between mother and son, the challenge of living up to one's father's accomplishments, and the flaws of our legal system.Tim Rausch, Crescent View Middle School, Sandy, UT
Kirkus Reviews
What begins as a portrait of a high-school drop-out is transformed into a fascinating study of the human spirit in this latest and mesmerizing novel by Cadnum (Zero at the Bone, 1996, etc.).

With his parents divorced and his best friend, Perry, moved away, Zachary seems content to spend his days delivering hot tubs and his nights bloodying his fists in Oakland brawls. But when his father is critically injured during a carjacking, Zachary's life changes. While he watches his mother and his father's new wife grudgingly achieve a truce, Zachary is left to grieve over his father's fate: Will he ever be able to speak or walk again? Cadnum conveys an intimate and authentic sense of the pain Zachary feels over his father's paralysis, and what could have descended into banal sentimentality is explored with grace and sincerity. Zachary, a realistically complex protagonist, may be a "high-school drop- out," but his sense of humor is quick and adult, his understanding of his high-strung mother comprehensive as well as responsive; and, to his surprise, his loyalty to a distant but amiable patriarch knows no limit. When his father's assailant escapes legal punishment, Zachary acts out of his own rage-filled past and considers retribution, and readers will forget to draw breath until he makes his final decision. This haunting, life-affirming novel further burnishes Cadnum's reputation as an outstanding novelist.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780140387148
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
  • Publication date: 8/28/1999
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 144
  • Age range: 12 - 17 Years
  • Product dimensions: 4.42 (w) x 7.16 (h) x 0.54 (d)

Read an Excerpt

The traffic at the Bay Bridge toll plaza tends to back up. Brake lights everywhere, nothing moving. Rhonda was right: I wouldn't have been able to drive, feeling the way I did. No, that wasn't quite the case. I could have driven to San Francisco alone, fighting traffic in my Honda, but it wouldn't be right to let me do it by myself, not now. People owe some things to each other.

I had to admire the way Rhonda whipped the van from one lane to another, leaning on the horn. A dotted arrow on a Caltrans truck was directing traffic to merge to the left.

"It's not as bad as they think it is," I said. Or maybe I didn't actually say the words. Maybe I just kept repeating them over and over in my head.

The horn had a solemn, muted quality, sounding from somewhere down below our feet. I hated the way it sounded, too soft. "UC Medical Center," said Rhonda, talking mostly to herself. "I think I know how to get there."

"You think," I heard myself say, unable to keep from sounding like my mother.

"Don't worry," she said.

In surgery for hours.

It was a long sundown, no fog tonight, city lights just now coming on. Rhonda held her arm out the window like a wide receiver giving a straight-arm, holding off traffic while she maneuvered into another lane.

The hair clip vibrated with the engine, a dry, buzzing sound from the beanbag ashtray. My mother's news had to be all exaggeration, something we would think about a few weeks from now, a minor incident that got blown out of all proportion. I folded my arms, feeling cold with no sense of time passing. We had always been here on the bridge, stuck, going nowhere.

I should turn on some quiet music, the kind the dentist plays, soothing, music that gets you thinking the world isn't real. I didn't touch the radio. I just sat there, trying not to think.

It was a phrase I had heard on the news. The words had never had any special, personal meaning for me. Condition critical.

"You can't park there," said a very stout, tall man with a zipper jacket and a glittering badge, UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA POLICE. "This is emergency vehicles only."

My legs were stiff, the shrubbery unreal, people in quiet conversation, searching their pockets for keys. How wonderfully normal it all was, a newspaper machine beside a green bin decorated with a picture, a stick figure, dotted lines showing the path of his litter into a receptacle. It was probably over already, good news. Mom didn't bother to call -- she wanted to tell me in person.

The man looked me up and down, his eyes hidden behind tinted glasses, black plastic frames. "We have visitor parking in lot B across the street."

Rhonda was there beside me, then, putting her keys into her purse, and some of the telephone company executive was in her voice when she said, "I'll move the car in just a minute. We have an emergency."

The man with the badge seemed to grow taller. His whole world was full of people with emergencies.

Rhonda added, like it was easy to say, an afterthought that might help explain, just a little detail, "His father's been shot."

My mother didn't even glance at Rhonda, stepping right up to me and giving me a hug. It was a real rib-crusher.

"What happened?" I asked, my voice sounding pretty calm, although higher than usual.

My mom said, hearing what I was really saying, not just my words, "I don't believe it either."

"Are they still..." My voice did one of its fade-outs. I couldn't even complete a question: still operating?

"They wouldn't tell us, Zachary. You know that. We're just the ex-family." Sometimes my mother's argumentative manner drove me crazy. But now I found it familiar, the two of us sharing the same paranoia. It was just a tradition with her, sounding relaxed and pissed-off at the same time.

"Did it happen downtown?" said Rhonda.

I winced inwardly. You had to use irony with my mother, sarcasm, adopt my mother's tone. My mom gave Rhonda a look now, her face dead. "No," she said. Then, deciding to communicate to me, if not to Rhonda, she added, "Nineteenth Street. In an ordinary neighborhood, not far from Golden Gate Park. He stopped at a red light."

"In broad daylight," said Rhonda.

Again, Rhonda's style was all wrong, her eyes full of feeling. "Right after late lunch at his favorite restaurant," said my mom.

John's Grill, I thought. Dad liked the mashed potatoes there; he was one of those guys who never gain much weight. Right about the time Chief had been showing the man in the bikini bathing suit how to focus his Leica so he could take our picture delivering his brand-new spa.

"A car-jacking," said Rhonda, plainly trying to fit words we had all heard on the news to what was happening.

"Robbery," said my mom, with a flip of her hand -- what difference did it make. "There's a police detective in there now, along with -- "She didn't want to say the name of Dad's new wife just now. She gave a little shrug. "You know everything I do."

"Did they catch whoever did it?" asked Rhonda, her voice breathy, not meaning any harm but doing it anyway, forcing my mom to say things she wasn't ready to. Maybe Rhonda was doing it deliberately, now, forcing the answers like a newspaper reporter. She had a copy of every one of my dad's books.

"No," said my mom. "They didn't catch who did it. His car went through the intersection and ran into something."

"It's terrible, Florence," said Rhonda. My mother wasn't crazy about being named after a city in Italy. She preferred the pet names my dad used to call her. My mother acts like a person cheated by life, carrying on with humor but not expecting much. She thanked Rhonda in a tone that surprised me, gentle, dignified.

"But he's going to be all right," I said.

Mom took my hand. Her fingers were very cold. My parents had never suffered the heavy-artillery sort of divorce you hear about all the time. She was always in a hurry to get back to a bank before it closed, and Dad was always off to the Yucatan or Honolulu. When he fell in love with a younger woman, Mom reacted by cutting costs at the office she managed, installing new computers, firing half the staff, and winning a seat on the Governor's Economic Task Force. I think she always imagined Dad would remarry for a third time, to her, his first wife, my mom. Maybe I even hoped it was possible in some wistful cul-de-sac of my mind. Dad had always been upbeat with Mom and me, but that was how he dealt with everything, quick to get his way.

She walked me down to look out a window, the glass crosshatched with wire mesh so no one could break in, or out.

"How did your test go today?" she asked.

I didn't respond. She wouldn't let go of my hand.

"Zachary," she said. "The police detective is in the operating room in case your father says something." She liked saying police detective, two words, taking solace in the way it sounded, like there were authorities in charge.

Excerpt reprinted from EDGE by Michael Cadnum copyright © 1997 by Michael Cadnum. Used by permission of Viking Children's Books, a division of Penguin Books USA, Inc.

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