Tribes

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Overview

Percy’s father, a famous anthropologist, died in Africa four years ago; and Percy has taken on his father’s eyes to see the world as a brilliant Observer. He and his friend Elissa are fascinated by the ritualistic world called Grade Twelve: the Jock tribe; the Teacher tribe; the Born Again tribe; the Cool and Detached tribe; the Lipstick/Hairspray tribe, not to mention Mr. Verplaz, the Shaman. For Percy it’s crucial to withdraw, analyze, and remain above it all. But wait–he’s studying real people, who complicate ...
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Tribes

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Overview

Percy’s father, a famous anthropologist, died in Africa four years ago; and Percy has taken on his father’s eyes to see the world as a brilliant Observer. He and his friend Elissa are fascinated by the ritualistic world called Grade Twelve: the Jock tribe; the Teacher tribe; the Born Again tribe; the Cool and Detached tribe; the Lipstick/Hairspray tribe, not to mention Mr. Verplaz, the Shaman. For Percy it’s crucial to withdraw, analyze, and remain above it all. But wait–he’s studying real people, who complicate things. Like Elissa, the only person who can come close to him, maybe too close. The only person who knows how painful it was last year when their best friend Willard died. As graduation approaches, the looming ritual ratchets up Percy’s deepest, hidden feelings and reveals the truth about his father’s disappearance.

From the Hardcover edition.

For Percy, the loss of his father and the suicide of his best friend build to a head during the last week before high school graduation.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Slade's (Dust) dense novel inventively uses an anthropological lens to view high school life. Narrator 17-year-old Percy explains in a prologue that his anthropologist father died in the Congo three years earlier, after being bitten by a tsetse fly. The teen then reveals that on the night his father died, "Dad materialized at my bedside, extended a ghost arm, and opened his fingers to reveal a pair of glowing spirit eyes... and inserted the magical orbs into my sockets." Percy thereafter refers to fellow humans as "hominids" and frequently relies on amusing anthropological jargon that occasionally grows grating. Yet the narrative effectively conveys why Percy is shunned by fellow students. His most astute observations come at the expense of his peers: "Numerous tribes exist in friction at our school. The Logo Tribe exhibits name brands wherever and whenever possible.... The Lipstick/Hairspray Tribe performs elaborate appearance alterations to attract mates." He describes himself and his sole friend, Elissa as a "cohesive group of two" who are "quasi-omniscient Observers." Other highlights include a mystical parallel with the Ndebele tribe, where his father was working at the time of Percy's birth, and the tribe's ritual marking a boy's entry into manhood. Despite the hero's awkward anthopologic-speak ("No one ever knows what I'm talking about. What it means. No one!"), readers who admire the fellow's spirit may well enjoy this unusual treatise on high school culture; a concluding twist brings this tale down to earth. Ages 12-up. (Sept.)
KLIATT
The loss of his anthropologist father three years ago devastated 17-year-old Percy, who is about to graduate from high school in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. He now tries to look at the world through his father's eyes, keeping a field journal and observing everything as an anthropologist would. He describes the tribes of high school, for example: "The Logo Tribe exhibits name brands... The Digerati Tribe worships bytes and silicon chips. The Lipstick/Hairspray Tribe performs elaborate appearance alterations to attract mates..." Percy and his friend Elissa make up the Observers, though the Jock Tribe doesn't appreciate Percy's observations and frequently thumps him. Percy is beginning to lose it, however, daydreaming too frequently and feeling as if the world is "unreal," oblivious to Elissa's desire to be more than friends. His best friend committed suicide a year ago, and now only pain gives Percy relief from his anxieties: he pierces himself with a pin. He barely makes it to graduation—where his father appears, and we realize that Percy has only pretended to himself that he had died, furious at his father's desertion of the family. This is an offbeat, somewhat disturbing look at a boy struggling to work through a difficult period in his life. Readers may be confused by the father's reappearance, as Percy states that he is dead at the beginning. It does have a hopeful ending, and YAs may appreciate the anthropological perspective on high school life and the sardonic humor. Category: Hardcover Fiction. KLIATT Codes: JS—Recommended for junior and senior high school students. 2002, Random House, Wendy Lamb, 160p.,
— Paula Rohrlick; KLIATT
VOYA
Percy Montmount obsessively studies the tribal rituals of the twelfth graders at Groverly High. His 700-page field journal details the "Digerati, Lipstick/Hairspray, Gee-the-Seventies-Were-Great-Even-Though-I-Wasn't-Born-Yet" tribes, among others. His own tribe, "the quasi-omniscient Observers," consists of himself and his friend Elissa, also seniors. Percy follows in the footsteps of his anthropologist father, whom he believes died in the field. Science pervades every aspect of his life-his speech, his thoughts, and his living space. When Percy admits that his curiosity "about motivational speeches during athletic competitions" leads him to hide and listen in the boys' locker room, "He-Whose-Name-Is-Too-Sacred-to-Speak," a.k.a. Principal Michaels, promptly sends him to the school counselor. Even Elissa begins to wonder how long they can just "keep watching." The counselor and the last days of school, with parties and the graduation ritual, loom before Percy like major events. The pressure of change begins to implode the world Percy has created for himself, exposing pain, anger, and truths he has never faced. Slade's prose is complex, intelligent, and humorous. He creates a sense of suspense as Percy unknowingly excavates his own life and is left to make sense of the ruins. By examining what he finds inside, Percy is able to start to put the pieces together. Slade's angry young man retreats painfully inward, rather than reacting violently outward. In his final sentence, he states, "so much passes through us without our ever noticing," a profound reminder of what a little digging might reveal. VOYA CODES: 5Q 4P S (Hard to imagine it being any better written; Broad general YA appeal; SeniorHigh, defined as grades 10 to 12). 2002, Wendy Lamb Books/Random House, 160p,
— Jessica Mize
School Library Journal
Gr 8 Up-Throughout high school, senior Percy Montmount has adopted a detached worldview, emulating his anthropologist father, who apparently died three years earlier. In the course of his days, he observes the school's various cliques, or "tribes," and then records what he sees in his voluminous notebooks. At the beginning of the novel, readers are privy to his often humorous views of his school and his mother, who is heavily into almost every New Age trend; later, the narration captures the distinctive and elaborate syntax of this brainy and somewhat weird kid. As the story progresses, however, the truth of Percy's complex mental state is revealed-he is mourning the suicide of his best friend, he is confused by the mutual physical attraction between him and his friend Elissa, and he is angry with his dad. Finally, readers learn that his father is not dead, and that his parents are divorced. With graduation, everything comes to a head, and Percy begins to see that he has actually understood little of himself or others. The author has a good handle on his protagonist, and he explores the 17-year-old's growth and self-realization with skill and subtlety. While some readers may be disturbed by the lack of details about Percy's past, this is a good character study of an intelligent young man who is trying to grow up and gain an understanding of his world.-Todd Morning, Schaumburg Township Public Library, IL Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Percival Montmount has his father's eyes. Literally. When his anthropologist father died from a tsetse fly bite in the Congo, the father's ghost appeared at young Percy's bedside and gave him his "glowing spirit eyes." Now, Percy sees the world as an anthropologist. Dispensing with the history of mankind and Canada in the first three paragraphs of chapter one, Percy proceeds to study the hominids of Groverly High School in Saskatoon. Readers are treated to field reports on the Jock Tribe, the Teacher Tribe, the Born-Again Tribe, and other segments of the ritualistic society of Grade Twelve. Percy's goal is a lofty one: "to discover where all of this was leading. Evolution, that is. It pointed forward, indicating an obvious mission for us, a next logical step. What was it?" But readers come to realize that, despite his self-assigned job as reporter, Percy is not seeing very well. He is wrong about his father and almost loses the one girl friend he has. He comes to realize that reporting events is not the same as living and feeling. In this short, well-paced outing, Slade manages a wide range of weighty topics-Darwin, evolution, the Big Bang, death, suicide, and first love-with a light, humorous touch. An entertaining, thought provoking read. Readers who enjoy Percy's story might be pointed toward Kurt Vonnegut's works. (Fiction. YA)
Publishers Weekly
Highlights include a mystical parallel with the Ndebele tribe, where his father was working at the time of Percy's birth, and the tribe's ritual marking a boy's entry into manhood. Despite the hero's awkward anthopologic-speak ("No one ever knows what I'm talking about. What it means. No one!"), readers who admire the fellow's spirit may well enjoy this unusual treatise on high school culture; a concluding twist brings this tale down to earth.
The Horn Book
Slade is a wizard with words.
Todd Morning
The author has a good handle on his protagonist, and he explores the 17-year-old's growth and self-realization with skill and subtlety. While some readers may be disturbed by the lack of details about Percy's past, this is a good character study of an intelligent young man who is trying to grow up and gain an understanding of his world.
Voya Magazine
Slade’s prose is complex, intelligent, and humorous.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780440229759
  • Publisher: Random House Children's Books
  • Publication date: 6/8/2004
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Pages: 144
  • Age range: 12 - 17 Years
  • Product dimensions: 4.25 (w) x 7.00 (h) x 0.38 (d)

Meet the Author

Arthur Slade has published several novels for young readers in Canada, where he has won the 2001 Governor General's Award and the Saskatchewan Book Award for Children's Literature. Tribes is his first book to appear in the U.S.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

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