All Schools are the same and Spencer Pendleton expects no less from Greenfield Middle. But Spencer hasn't met them yet-the Tribe, a group of runaway students who secretly own the school. They live off cafeteria food and wield weapons made out of everyday school supplies. Strangely, no one seems to know they exist, except for Spencer. And the group wants him to join their ranks. All he has to do is pass the initiations...and leave his mother and life behind. Can Spencer go through with it? Better yet, what will ...
All Schools are the same and Spencer Pendleton expects no less from Greenfield Middle. But Spencer hasn't met them yet-the Tribe, a group of runaway students who secretly own the school. They live off cafeteria food and wield weapons made out of everyday school supplies. Strangely, no one seems to know they exist, except for Spencer. And the group wants him to join their ranks. All he has to do is pass the initiations...and leave his mother and life behind. Can Spencer go through with it? Better yet, what will happen if he says no?
In this captivating novel, four rebellious, outcast middle schoolers do not run away from school; they secretly inhabit it. They are the "tribe"—Sully, Peashooter, Compass, and Sporkboy. From the first moment detention-prone Spencer Pendleton sets foot on the campus of Greenfield Middle School, the tribe is after him—to protect him from the sinister school bullies, to protect him from himself, and to recruit him to their anarchy. Spencer is the only son of divorced parents and is the typical victim of bullies: a new kid, a loner, a malcontent. In this respect the character seems cliche, but the author has a fresh new twist on the typical bully's victim. Laced from beginning to end with quotes from classic novels, this action-packed story exposes the physical and emotional cruelties of bullies. Of the four tribe members, Sully—the lone girl and "milk-carton" missing child—is the one Spencer is drawn to liberate. Eventually, the protagonist must decide to join the tribe members or be rejected entirely by them. The poignant conclusion resembles a cross between Peter Pan and Animal Farm. This is a middle-schooler must-read. Reviewer: Krisan Murphy
- Laura Lehner
Spencer Pendleton arrives at Greenfield Middle School determined to make a new start and shed a past laden with rumors (did he burn down his previous school?). Unfortunately, from the first day, the head bully of the school finds the new kid an easy and obvious target—he does carry an inhaler on a string around his neck, after all. Spencer surprises everyone with the wit and bravado he exhibits in the face of daily swirlies, which leads a group of runaway misfits living in the ceiling of the school to recruit him to join their gang. Homeroom Headhunters is not for the faint of heart or stomach. The hijinks of Spencer and the Tribe are over-the-top and require the reader to suspend a lot of disbelief (an entire student body getting a particularly explosive strain of food poisoning in unison during an assembly; teenagers crawling over ceiling tiles during the school day without being heard or crashing through). The very serious issue of bullying is approached humorously here, with an emphasis on retaliation that some readers will find funny, and others will find just too mean. Tweens looking for a light, gross, and unashamedly unrealistic read will enjoy this first volume of the series. Reviewer: Laura Lehner
School Library Journal
Gr 5–8—Expelled for starting a fire at his school, Spencer Pendleton has just transferred to Greenfield Middle. In trouble with the hapless assistant principal from the get-go, Spence is recruited by a hidden Tribe of runaway kids who live deep within the school, sanctimoniously inflicting vengeance against former tormentors. Peashooter, the Tribe's seething captain, is a serious reader: Call of the Wild, Peter Pan, "The Most Dangerous Game." But it's his willful misreading of Napoleon that tips off Spencer that this revolution might not be so pure. Their campaign culminates in the gym with the entire school poisoned via a tainted holiday lunch, devolving into a miserable free-for-all of flatulence, vomit, and diarrhea. The mood is sometimes oppressive. Kids in the Tribe are not merely resentful of bullies; they swing from sneeringly condescending to gravely hostile toward everyone. Other children are cartoonish "werekids," "stupid rodents," lemmings, and cattle. The threat of real violence is always imminent, as though Wayside School were about to give way to The Hunger Games. One of the Tribe loses a fingertip to a table saw. While the core story is compelling, something is lost in the details. Much is made of Spence's asthma, but it will ring false to anyone with the condition. His parents are separated and Dad is distant, but readers never see much to make Spencer sympathetic. He seems oppositional and irreverent without any motivation. This is the first volume in a trilogy; perhaps more exposition will follow.—Bob Hassett, Luther Jackson Middle School, Falls Church, VA
In the opener of the Tribe trilogy, Spencer Pendleton welcomes the chance to start anew at Greenfield Middle School. It's an "overblown rumor" that he burned down his old school. Most of the school is still standing, minus a couple of classrooms. Now, though, he hopes to stay on the straight and narrow, with the help of his inhaler and latest meds. But on Day 1, he has his first confrontation with bully Riley Callahan and his Cro-Magnon cronies. On Day 2, Riley sends Spencer toilet diving. Then Spencer almost gouges out his teacher's eye with a pencil, is involved in a cafeteria food fight and has a chat with the assistant principal. When he's recruited by the Tribe, a mysterious "underground ring of runaways" hiding out in the school, he might have found a way to survive. But, though the Tribe is more than capable of doing battle with school bullies, Spencer realizes they're a tyrannical clique in their own way, and he's too independent-minded to be a loyal follower. He will have to find his own way to survive. The first-person narration effectively conveys Spencer's internal struggles, and the clever "Ghost Stories" interspersed toward the end of the volume offer fascinating back stories for the Tribe's members. An engaging, over-the-top tale with much to say about how schools treat individuals and outsiders. (Fiction. 10-14)
Acclaimed NY playwright and author Clay McLeod Chapman is the creator of the rigorous storytelling sessions The Pumpkin Pie Show. He is the author of rest area, a collection of short stories, and miss corpus, a novel. He teaches writing at The Actors Studio MFA Program at Pace University Program. Visit him at: http://claymcleodchapman.com/