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April 01, 2009
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Tale of Rage and Rebellion Gets Extinguished
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Reader reviewed by Steph Su

Ever since her only friend, Beth,
moved away, Dante has hated her new high school, Glen Ridge Secondary School.
Hours of sitting in pointless classes, being bullied by mean teachers, forced
to follow the school rules without complaint&Her parents arent making it
better for her either. Her mother doesnt want Dante to become a social
outcast, and yet insist on keeping her tightly reined, as if that will help her

Then one day, a strange girl
thrusts a flyer that says Woof, woof. You are not a dog. Why are you going to
obedience school? into Dantes hands, and Dante thinks she has found a
soulmate. The girl, Parker, introduces Dante to two other guys who have similar
thoughts about established institutions such as schools and jails, and they do
things to protest the mundanity of it all. For once, Dante is elated, and she
continues to be inexplicably drawn to Parker and unableor unwillingto explain
her feelings.

But when her friends plan
something that can really be out of control, and Parker needs her help, what is
Dante to do? How much is too much, and what done in the name of protest is
actually useless, unhelpful, and dangerous?

INFERNO deals with an overwhelming
number of issues in a way that leaves us unsatisfied. In the span of a little
over 200 pages, Stevenson tries to deal with rebellion, parental
misunderstanding, homosexuality, arson, unhealthy vs. healthy friendships&Whoa!
There are probably more that I missed. Just one of these topics is something
that deserves a book to itself. Cramming all of these into one book results in
me feeling dissatisfied and cheated out of a better, more complete and
fulfilling story.

Dante is a mediocre protagonist
who makes bad decisions I often cant relate to; as a result, she hardly
garners my respect and empathy. Similarly, Parker, while a compelling IDEA of a
character, falls flat in practice. Her personality ranges from enigmatic,
strong, and intelligent to scared and indecisive, to flirtatious and
manipulative. While it is totally possible that all of these traits exist in
one character, in Parker they felt disjointed, as if she were three different
characters tryingand failingto masquerade as one. As a result, I was unable
to sympathize with her character, even though I admit that her problems are
plenty and definitely deserve attention and maybe even therapy.

Similarly, other supporting
characters are either one-dimensional or else so caricature-esque that I
couldnt get into them. Jamie, Parkers boyfriend, is unrelentingly the angry
disenfranchised youth with the unexplained past. Leo, their other friend, has a
backstory, but it seems totally separate from the person he is now. Dantes
mother was infuriating, but that was probably for personal reasons. I only wish
that Dantes parents were more complex characters, so I could actually believe
their shifts in emotions and the mother-daughter bonding moments. Because right
now I dont believe them.

All hope is NOT lost, however. The
plot, while predictable, still managed to capture my attention and keep me
reading. This book is really a plot-driven one. INFERNO is a beginners
introduction to a variety of complex issues that need to be explored at a greater
depth. Im not sure who to recommend this to because there are much better
books that discuss these topics out there.

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