Out of Shadows

Out of Shadows

by Jason Wallace

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Twelve-year-old Robert Jacklin comes face-to-face with bigotry, racism, and brutality when he is uprooted from England and moves to Zimbabwe with his family. Robert is enrolled in one of the country’s most elite boys’ boarding schools. Newly integrated, the school is a microcosm of the horrible problems faced by the struggling new country in the wake of a


Twelve-year-old Robert Jacklin comes face-to-face with bigotry, racism, and brutality when he is uprooted from England and moves to Zimbabwe with his family. Robert is enrolled in one of the country’s most elite boys’ boarding schools. Newly integrated, the school is a microcosm of the horrible problems faced by the struggling new country in the wake of a bloody civil war. The white boys want their old country back and torment the black Africans. Robert must make careful alliances. His decision to join the ranks of the more powerful white boys has a devastating effect on his

conscience and emerging manhood.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Wallace’s debut, inspired by his own experiences as a teen, is a bleak, morally complex, and emotionally charged coming-of-age story set in Zimbabwe during the turbulent 1980s, just after Robert Mugabe’s controversial rise to power. Robert Jacklin is a young man from England, whose family has moved to Africa as part of a diplomatic posting, and he’s promptly sent to Haven, a prestigious boarding school struggling to cope with the new social order. Over the next few years, Robert deals with hazing, unconventional teachers, and his dysfunctional family, while trying to develop his own identity. Against his better judgment, he befriends cruel and controlling Ivan Hascott, a fellow white student, whose family has suffered under Mugabe’s rule, and who urges Robert to join him in tormenting black Africans. Robert grows distraught over Ivan’s increasingly violent actions, his own accountability, and the tumultuous state of the country. His turmoil finally builds to a climactic moment that will haunt him for the rest of his life. Racial conflict, corruption, and the cycle of abuse are conveyed with authenticity in this uncomfortable, unvarnished story. Ages 15–up. (Apr.)
From the Publisher
"Honest, brave, and devasting-more than just memorable. It's impossible to look away."

In this novel set in 1980s Zimbabwe, bullies, victims, and bystanders in a boys’ boarding school form the drama, and white British high-school student Robert Jacklin plays all three roles. Rooted in the author’s personal experience, the story describes school conflict that echoes the unrest of national politics. The local whites hate President Mugabe for taking their land, but Robert’s dad at the British embassy is thrilled that the blacks are getting back the land they lost. Or are they? With a huge cast of students and teachers, it is not easy to keep the characters straight. Wallace never romanticizes either side, though. The racist insults and the constant violence extend from the dormitory and classroom to the local villages, and as the students join the turmoil, Robert must confront his own shame. The story’s climax is over the top, but the fast-paced school drama, with issues about guilt, survival, and responsibility, will pull older teens, and adults, too.

*"This novel excels, bringing readers up to the grim, uncertain present with mastery."

*"This novel excels, bringing readers up to the grim, uncertain present with mastery."

Children's Literature - Sharon Salluzzo
In 1983, Robert Jacklin and his parents left England for Zimbabwe where his father had a job with the British Embassy. As they approach the prestigious boarding school that Robert is to attend, he is filled with homesickness for England, and fear that he will not be accepted by the other students. He befriends Nelson, an African boy, and is drawn to Ivan Hascott whose parents were colonial farmers. These two teens are at opposite ends of the social spectrum. The brutal and sadistic actions of the boarding school teens turn deadly and Robert finds himself in this downward spiral. A question the history teacher, Mr. Van Hout, asked Robert's class repeats over and over in his mind: "If I stood you in front of a man, pressed the cold metal of a gun into your palm and told you to squeeze the trigger, would you do it?" As Robert learns of a plot by Hascott and his pack to assassinate Prime Minister Robert Mugabe he is determined to stop them. The final chapter has Robert returning to Zimbabwe today, observing the societal ills that plague the country, and facing ghosts from his own past. There are no easy answers to the questions presented in this gritty and haunting novel. The characters smoke and use profanity—just as one would expect. The social and political upheaval is presented in its complexities. The bullying, misuse of power, and mistrust at the boarding school mirrors that of post-civil war Zimbabwe. The issues that Wallace presents beg to be discussed, and there are many lines in this fine literary effort that can be the catalysts. Reviewer: Sharon Salluzzo
VOYA - Matthew Weaver
Racial tensions are simmering as thirteen-year-old Robert Jacklin arrives at a prestigious boarding school in Zimbabwe in the 1980s. Robert, who is white and misses his mother, immediately declares brotherhood with his roommate, Nelson, who is black, but soon finds himself drawn to racist bully Ivan. Spurred by a charismatic teacher, Ivan and his friends, fueled with hatred for controversial Zimbabwe president Robert Mugabe and the ruling party, begin to take a dark path tormenting the local youth, and Robert soon wonders if he has gotten in over his head. Wallace's book is devastatingly stunning, inviting comparisons with Bryce Courtenay's The Power of One (Ballantine, 1990/VOYA December 1989), if the hero of that novel aligned himself with the bad guys. Drawing on memories of his own experiences in a Zimbabwe boarding school, Wallace does not shy away from portraying his characters realistically and unflatteringly . Even Jacklin is not blameless, which makes it all the more powerful when he sees what his own actions have wrought. The author explains why Ivan is so terrible, and while we never root for him, we see where he is coming from and recognize our own potential slippery slopes. The book never fades or lets up, even when it threatens to boil over into a political thriller. It is an unflinching look at hatred and the human damage it leaves in its wake. Reviewer: Matthew Weaver
School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up—This taut drama is set at an elite boarding school in Zimbabwe during the 1980s, soon after the end of the brutal war between white colonialists and black Africans. Young Jacklin, recently arrived from England, hasn't been a party to the bloody revolution that saw white, minority-controlled Rhodesia become Zimbabwe, with Robert Mugabe as its first black Prime Minister. Robert is accustomed to integrated classes; others are not. Pranks and hazing quickly cross the line into vicious schoolyard bullying and savage hate crimes against nearby villagers. Readers will not condone Robert's behavior, but they'll sympathize as he slides into an alliance with Ivan, a charismatic classmate and racist bully. His unseemly betrayal of his black friend, Nelson, is heart wrenching, and Wallace's use of the narrator's present-day thoughts to hauntingly foreshadow this event, and others, is powerful. Rage, vengeance, and the desire for retribution are convincingly portrayed as the tension is ratcheted up through to the heart-pounding conclusion. This thought-provoking narrative offers teens a window into a distinctive time and place in history that is likely to be unfamiliar to most of them. A first purchase for high schools, especially those with a strong world cultures curriculum.—Patricia N. McClune, Conestoga Valley High School, Lancaster, PA
Kirkus Reviews
A boarding-school story set in the aftermath of the Rhodesian Civil War examines evil from all sides and provides no easy answers. The Haven School for boys is anything but for narrator Robert Jacklin. When the boy arrives from England at 13, the son of a liberal intellectual attached to the British Embassy, he initially makes friends with one of the school's few black students, but he quickly learns that safety and acceptance are among the school's white elite. Over the course of the next five years he changes from likable milquetoast into a thug's accessory, understanding and hating but choosing to ignore his moral compromise. Wallace, in his debut, draws on his own childhood in post-revolutionary Zimbabwe to inform this grimly magnetic snapshot of petty evil. In many regards, it's a classic boarding-school novel, full of A Separate Peace–like inevitability; narrator Robert is liberal with "had I but known" statements foreshadowing some kind of doom. But as Robert's mentor in brutality becomes ever more unhinged, the tension ratchets up and the book turns into a first-rate, surprisingly believable thriller. In its portrayal of race relations in a wounded country as well as of the ugly power dynamics of a community of adolescent boys, this novel excels, bringing readers up to the grim, uncertain present with mastery. (Historical fiction. 14 & up)

Product Details

Holiday House, Inc.
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.70(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.20(d)
HL710L (what's this?)
Age Range:
14 - 17 Years

Meet the Author

Jason Wallace was twelve when his family moved to Zimbabwe. It was his experience in a boarding school during the aftermath of the war for independence that forms the foundation of this incredible story. He lives in England.

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