Inventing Elliot

( 6 )


When fourteen-year-old Elliot Sutton arrives at HolminsterHigh, he's determined not to stand out. He simply can't let himself become a target again—not like he was at his last school. This time, he's a new Elliot. Tough. Impenetrable. But then he meets the Guardians, a group of upperclassmen that secretly rule Holminster with a quiet and anonymous terror. Obsessed with George Orwell's book 1984, they desire power for the sake of power—and they always get what they want. Now, they want Elliot. Not to terrorize . ....

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When fourteen-year-old Elliot Sutton arrives at HolminsterHigh, he's determined not to stand out. He simply can't let himself become a target again—not like he was at his last school. This time, he's a new Elliot. Tough. Impenetrable. But then he meets the Guardians, a group of upperclassmen that secretly rule Holminster with a quiet and anonymous terror. Obsessed with George Orwell's book 1984, they desire power for the sake of power—and they always get what they want. Now, they want Elliot. Not to terrorize . . . but to join them. Can Elliot face his new future, or will he become his own worst nightmare?

Elliot, a victim of bullying, invents a calmer, cooler self when he changes schools in the middle of freshman year, but soon attracts the wrong kind of attention from the Guardians who "maintain order" at the new school.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Like a diluted version of The Chocolate War, this British novel concerns a freshman boy singled out by a secret society of upperclassmen who reign over the students at Holminster High. Elliot arrives at the school with numerous strikes against him: his father is clinically depressed, his mother works at two menial jobs to keep them in their ramshackle apartment, his uniform is second-hand, and Elliot himself is trying to work his way out of his role as perpetual victim at his previous school. To his surprise, the elite group, the Guardians, express an interest in him, not to dunk his head in a toilet but rather to recruit him as one of their successors. The book moves along too predictable an arc, fueled by cardboard characterizations. Tutored by the Guardians, who are obsessed with George Orwell's 1984 and the fantasies of power it has inspired in them, Elliot comes to power, but simultaneously (and secretly) befriends one of the Guardians' most prominent victims, remembering what it was like to be on the receiving end of cruelty. The clearly foreseeable act of redemption at the end undermines the story's credibility. Ages 12-up. (Mar.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Freshman Elliott Sutton finds himself starting the year at a new school, where he is determined to invent a stronger persona. At his previous school he was targeted relentlessly and brutally by bullies. Wanting to shed the grimness of his home life, he spends his savings on a new look. His goal is not to stand out but to fit in and not be noticed, because being noticed is what gets a person into trouble. Unfortunately he is spotted and recruited by an elite group of school thugs called the Guardians. The Guardians model themselves after the "watchers" from George Orwell's 1984, and they arrange for public "punishments," in which a weaker student is forced to fight a bully while the rest of the school watches. Things get complicated when Elliot secretly befriends a nerdy student singled out for many of the attacks and falls in love for the first time with an independent young woman. He realizes what kind of person he wants to be—the new persona that he should invent. He badly wants to be part of those in power, but he knows all too well how it feels to be on the other side. This book should appeal to a broad range of readers—almost everyone knows what it is like to be bullied. It should be noted that the setting is somewhere in the U.K., but there is no local slang. The locker-room bullying scenes are harrowing and all too real, but most students should find hope in Elliot's transformations and final decisions. VOYA Codes: 3Q 3P J S (Readable without serious defects; Will appeal with pushing; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12). 2004, Dial, 192p., Ages 12 to 18.
—Rebecca Vnuk
Elliot is starting at a new school, Holminster High, and he is determined not to be bullied as he was at his old school. Home life is miserable enough, with his father an invalid in a deep depression after a terrible assault and his mother working much too hard. Eliott takes great care with his school clothes and his appearance, to be sure to fit in, and he cultivates a new persona, aloof and disengaged. He is terrified of standing out in any way, because he thinks that will make him a target, but his outwardly cool style brings him a dangerous new kind of attention: the gang that secretly controls the school, the Guardians, wants him to join them. Now Elliott finds himself forced to become one of the bullies, rather than the bullied, and to target others for abuse or be subject to abuse himself. Meanwhile, an attractive girl named Louise brings out a whole other side of Elliot's character. How many new Elliots can he maintain? And can he summon up the courage to tell the school authorities about the Guardians? With its references to 1984, this British novel draws a chilling portrait of the abuse of power. The climate of fear created by the Guardians is all too believable. This is a riveting and insightful novel that takes readers inside the world of bullies and their victims. KLIATT Codes: J—Recommended for junior high school students. 2004, Penguin Putnam, Dial, 192p., Ages 12 to 15.
—Paula Rohrlick
Children's Literature
Fourteen-year-old Elliot has been a bully magnet all his life. When family circumstances force a move to a new town, he hopes for a new start, making himself as invisible as possible in order to avoid trouble. He soon learns that his new school is controlled by the Guardians, a power-hungry group of students who have as their philosophy a warped reading of Orwell's 1984. Threatened by the very existence of the Guardians, Elliot makes choices to protect himself. But though he is safe, his choices ultimately eat away at the very foundation of the person he would truly like to be. Neither his doomed friendship with Ben, a boy on the Guardian's victim list, nor his budding romance with Louise, a girl in his English class who is wise beyond her years, persuade him to do the right thing. Finally, he comes to understand that his mother, whom he has seen as weak and insignificant as she battles for a better life for her family in the face of his father's depression, is in fact strong and is driven by love. This realization helps him find his way to doing the right thing. Many teens should enjoy this thought-provoking novel, which recalls Robert Cormier's The Chocolate War. 2004, Dial Books/Penguin Group, Ages 12 up.
—Anne Marie Pace
School Library Journal
Gr 7-9-Teased by bullies in his old school, Elliot is determined to reinvent himself at his new high school by donning a cool, unflappable exterior. Ironically, the 14-year-old's aloofness earns the interest of an elite group of bullies, known as the Guardians, whose members target school losers for punishment in cruel and ritualistic ways. In this psychological drama, the outwardly congenial Guardian leaders, who are never seen "in the company of actual violence," recruit Elliot using control tactics adopted from their favorite book, George Orwell's 1984. With no way out, he passes the initiation test that requires him to choose a punisher and a victim. Elliot's outward voice alternates with an inner voice written in italics, depicting a battle of sensibilities. Two valuable but tentative friendships disintegrate as Elliot becomes more Guardianlike, and the struggles with his conscience intensify. In an emotion-packed ending, the teen realizes that the strength he had in choosing not to be a victim is the same strength he needs to uncloak the Guardians. Elliot is an appealing protagonist, and his need to fit in will strike a chord with most readers.-Vicki Reutter, Cazenovia High School, NY Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Gardner serves up a suspenseful tale of a bullying victim who manages a transformation, not into safety, but into the kingdom of the bullies. At his last school Elliot was continuously threatened and beaten, and headed now into a new school, decides to do whatever he can to escape. His fear is palpable from the initial scene where he's beaten up and continues as he watches fellow victims in the new school succumb to the dominant group, the Guardians, as well as to other bullies-teachers and students. At home, Elliot's father is locked into an incapacitating depression, and his mother struggles with two menial jobs to support them. At school, Elliot's fear guides him throughout each day, until he makes all the correct moves to be invited to join the organized and hidden power mongers called the Guardians. Elliot's character changes as the story develops, giving readers the needed clues, amid nail-biting suspense, to the culminating event in the final chapter. References throughout to Orwell's 1984 add depth and keep readers thinking of the principles at stake when those with power abuse it. (Fiction. YA)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780142403440
  • Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group
  • Publication date: 6/2/2005
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 192
  • Sales rank: 803,223
  • Age range: 12 years
  • Lexile: 690L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 4.34 (w) x 6.76 (h) x 0.54 (d)

Meet the Author

GRAHAM GARDNER is an academic researcher and author, specializing in social and political geography, at the University of Wales, Aberystwyth. Prior to this he has had many jobs, including shop assistant, civil servant, research officer, waiter, and factory worker. He is also a keen musician, playing rock and classical piano. He is the second eldest of ten children, and was born and brought up in Worcestershire. He divides his time between his flat in Aberystwyth and his parents' house in the Malvern Hills. INVENTING ELLIOT is his first novel.

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Read an Excerpt

Elliot would have loved to run laps. Exercise he didn't mind. It was playing the game that he hated. Having the same 140-pound monster tackle you and fall on you six times during one game, quite obviously doing it deliberately, and the gym teacher watching and doing nothing, almost certainly secretly enjoying it. Getting yelled at for fumbling a catch, when the ball was impossible to hold: cold and greasy with thick, wet winter mud.

Oliver had gone out without so much as a word to Elliot. Elliot trotted into the cold sunlight, his chest tight, his heart already thumping uncomfortably. This was where all the acting skill he could muster could let him down in an instant.

But in the end, surprisingly, it wasn't too bad. He ran around enough to convince both Mr. Phillips and the other players that he was a decent enough player and eager to get the ball -- even though he was tackled three seconds after he caught it for the first and last time.

Someone else wasn't so lucky: a gangly kid with angry red spots on his forehead and a raw-looking nose. Every other pass seemed to be directed at him. If he caught the ball, he was instantly tackled, crushed into the ground again and again, until even his face was brown. A couple of times Elliot saw a sly hand press his head down into the mud. When he didn't catch the ball -- which was usually -- he got the resentful stares of the rest of his team.

When they eventually walked off the field, Elliot's team had lost 28-14. He noticed the raw-nosed boy lagging behind.

In the locker room, Elliot quickly peeled off his muddy uniform and dived for the showers. He wanted to be in and out as quickly as possible. The more serious players on his team looked angry at their defeat, and he had no wish to be a potential target for their frustration.

He let the hot water power the dirt and sweat away. "Good game," said someone next to him. He vaguely recognized him from the morning's English class.

"Yeah." Elliot injected false enthusiasm into his voice.

Suddenly the end of the showers was blocked. He recognized his team captain, Stewart Masters, a big, burly center-forward who played aggressively, knocking challengers aside with casual flicks of his arm. He was still wearing his gym uniform, and glaring.

Please don't look at me, Elliot prayed. He tilted his head back to let the water flood onto his face, trying to look unconcerned. His skin felt cold, although the water was uncomfortably hot, filling the narrow space with clouds of steam.

When he next looked, Stewart had gone.

Thank you, God. Elliot stepped out into the main changing area and began toweling himself off.

"Here he is. I've got the little wimp."

The locker room went silent.

Elliot froze. But the attention wasn't directed at him. In the far corner of the room, Stewart Masters had ahold of the raw-nosed kid, his hand twisted in the boy's hair.

Everyone else in the room was still as a statue. The air was still with expectation, a stillness that somehow emptied it of smell -- of bodies, sweat, damp uniforms, of sound -- of the showers, breathing, of anything that might distract attention from whatever was about to happen.

Stewart spoke quietly into the stillness. "Baker, you're a snot rag. What are you?"

"A snot rag." The voice was flat and dead.

"Louder, Baker. I want the whole locker room to hear you."

"I'm a snot rag."

"And you stink, don't you, because you never take a bath. Don't you?"

"I -- I stink because I never take a bath."

"You're disgusting, Baker. I'm polluting myself by touching you."

"I'm disgusting."

"Did I ask you to speak, you little maggot? You filth stain. Did I?"

Stewart let go of the boy's hair. The tension in the room remained. Everyone knew there was more to come. Elliot held his towel, covering himself; the air suddenly felt cold; there were goose bumps all over him.

Stewart continued. "You're filthy, Baker. Get your clothes off and take a shower."

Slowly the boy undressed, carefully placing his clothes on the wooden bench behind him. His skin had an unhealthy, off-white appearance. He looked like a ghost, or a dead body animated by some supernatural force. Naked, he walked the length of the locker room and went into the showers.

Everything else was still.

Stewart scanned the room. "I want a volunteer. Quickly, before Phillips gets here." He pointed to Oliver. "You. You're volunteering to man the showers."

Clearly knowing what was expected, Oliver walked over to the tangle of pipes and wheels on the wall that controlled the flow and temperature of the water to the showers. He reached up and rapidly twisted one of the wheels clockwise.

"A nice cold shower, Baker, to clean the filth off you," Stewart said. He pointed to another two boys. "You and you -- clothing duty, now."

They too knew the drill: Baker's uniform followed him into the shower.

Elliot wondered how many times this had happened before -- to Baker or to anyone else. Something about the whole thing gave the impression of a routine perfected from long practice.

"What the hell's going on?"

In an instant the group unfroze into furious activity.

The gym teacher came into the locker room and went straight to the showers.

Elliot raced to pull on his boxer shorts and pants, his heart thudding.

What are you so concerned about? a little voice hissed in his head. You didn't do anything.

The gym teacher twisted one of the wheels on the wall, and the noise from the showers stopped.

"Come out of there."

Baker stepped into the locker room, his hands covering between his legs, his thin white frame shivering.

"Why aren't you getting dressed, Baker?" There was impatience in his voice.

The boy awkwardly half-turned back toward the showers.

"For crying out loud!" Mr. Phillips's gaze swept over the room. Elliot saw Stewart staring back: brazen, challenging. He remembered noticing Stewart's name in gold leaf on the football roll-of-honor board. He sensed the gym teacher weighing his options.

The teacher turned back to Baker. "Just get your clothes and get dressed. And hurry up." He turned to the others. "And the rest of you. You've got three minutes, or you'll all be taking cold showers."

Elliot finished putting on his tie, threw on his blazer, and got out before anyone could have a chance to speak to him.

Don't be noticed. But he knew it was only going to be a matter of time before he was. And then he'd be joining Baker underneath those showers. Nothing's going to be different here. Nothing.

I was stupid to imagine anything else.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 6 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 6 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 27, 2007

    Great book, but a little too short

    Inventing Elliot is a story about Elliot¿s life in and out of school. Elliot¿s father is a successful businessman who owns his own company. But one day, he gets beat up and robbed while walking to his car. The thieves took everything he owned and beat him almost to death. His neck was broken and he suffered from brain damage. Now he can barely eat his own food without help. His mother has to work much of the day and sometimes night shifts to keep the family out of poverty. They move to a new place to try and start a new life. In Elliot¿s old school, he was the victim of constant and brutal beatings from bullies. When he moved to his new school, he learned of an elite group of students called the Guardians. They work in secrecy and they choose people to bully. Of course, Elliot is afraid that these Guardians will get to him again, just like his last school. But, as Elliot finds out, things turn out exactly the other way. They want him to join the Guardians and become one of them. He has some tough choices to make ahead of him, and friends to lose and make. Overall, this story was excellent. The author, Graham Gardner, uses good word choice to describe the story. The whole book, from beginning to end, has the reader wanting more. Unfortunately, the reader doesn¿t get much more after getting to the end. The book seemed very short and it was a very fast read. The last few chapters seemed a little unnecessary, save for the last 5 pages or so of the book. If this book were longer by at least fifty pages, it would definitely deserve 10 out of 10. But this seemingly short book really gets an 8. It really feels that short that I would deduct two points from the rating. Still highly suggested, and hopefully you will enjoy it as much as I did.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 25, 2006

    Inventing Elliot - The Novel We Can All Relate To

    Have you ever felt abused or harassed? Felt like you were all alone? Surrounded in a corner with nowhere to go? Even if you havenâ¿¿t, Inventing Elliot is an awesome read. Written by Graham Gardner, it is a very teen â¿¿ focused novel centered on a 14 year old boy named Elliot Sutton. He frequently suffers both physical and mental abuse from constant bullying at his high school. To make matters worse, his family has virtually fallen apart with financial woes, and resulting mental and physical strain. In addition, Elliotâ¿¿s father can no longer do things on his own as he was assaulted one night and left on the sidewalk bleeding to death. His once confident and cheerful father is now a liability for the once strong and proud Sutton family. When Elliotâ¿¿s mother receives government compensation from his fatherâ¿¿s brutal attack and mugging, she sees the money as a chance to start things over for the very financially and emotionally worn out family. They move to a new city, and Elliot is enrolled in Holminster High. He is determined to change his image as a scrawny, short, underdeveloped young teenager into a confident and happy looking young man. He changes his hairstyle and buys brand new clothes with the savings that he had received from delivering newspapers every morning. His first few weeks at Holminster High are uneventful, and he thinks his plan has succeeded because he didnâ¿¿t seem to be noticed that much by his peers. His situation improves once he earns a spot on the very exclusive swim team. Little does he know that he has been followed by a notorious undercover group called the Guardians ever since his arrival at Holminster High. After a few meetings, he becomes a part of the Guardians, albeit extremely reluctantly. He soon realizes how it feels to be one of the most powerful teenagers at school, with all the benefits and drawbacks. What he doesnâ¿¿t realize, however, is the horrible price that he will have to pay for this position of power. Inventing Elliot was a very interesting book to me because it painted in abundant colors how it feels to be abused by peers, having your family falling apart right in front of your eyes, and being short on money all at the same time. The novel also shows how Elliot befriends one of his best friends, Ben, just to keep his reputation. Graham Gardner really takes you to the heart of the story in this novel, making you feel like you are in the situation, almost like being blended and integrated into the setting of the story. The author also adds a few more twists to the story, such as when Elliot falls head over heels for a girl, but is very hesitant to tell her about the dark side of his life. Inventing Elliot was a very pleasing book to read. It is a very good alternative to other novels, which are cheerful and happy as it shows you how some people are abused and harassed in todayâ¿¿s world. The only drawback about this book is that it takes a very long time to get into the story, but it definetly is a book that I would recommend to another teenager looking for a book which is very out of the ordinary.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 28, 2004


    Every young person want to fit in, to be accepted by his peers. When someone is not a part of the group his or her life can be fraught with misery. This is the situation 14-year-old Elliot Sutton finds himself in when he is the target of hurtful teasing by his classmates. However, there's hope as Elliot is going to a new school, Holminster High, and he is determined to be different, to change himself so that he won't be bullied again. To this end, he adopts a facade, a tough exterior, an emotional armor to protect himself. British actor Dominic Taylor presents a compelling reading as he segues from a cowed young man to a hardened teenager and, finally, to the voice of Elliot's conscience. You see, it seems that there is actually no escape for Elliot as Holminster High has its bullies, too. Only, they're a bit more evil than the ones Elliot has known before. This is a group called the Guardians, no one knows exactly who they are but everyone knows enough to fear them. They're upperclass students who rule for the sake of ruling, and, of all things, they want Elliot to join them. Can Elliot, a boy who was once a victim become a victimizer? It's often a struggle to grow, and this young man faces some difficult tests in order to do so.

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    Posted September 28, 2010

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 26, 2008

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    Posted June 23, 2011

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