Monday, August 18, 2008

THe Rag and Bone Shop by Robert Cormier

Unsettled...that's how I feel right now. I finished this book last night and I'm still shaken by it this morning. This sparsely written novel by Rob Cormier (written just before his death) has really unsettled me. I started reading it weeks ago and was so disturbed by where it was going I had to stop. I just picked it up this weekend to finish it. I found it to be chilling and terrifying. There were parts of the book I found to be implausible...more on those later...but over all felt the book was succinct and intense. Cormier managed to portray and develop two very gripping characters (Jason and Trent) in this short psychological thriller. Very reminiscent of his earlier book- I Am the Cheese. If you liked this book I would highly recommend that title.

There are so many things I would like to bring up- but first of all can anyone explain the reference to "Rag and Bone Shop?" I believe it is from a poem by Yeats?

One of the things that most upset me was the ending...is Jason a psychotic killer in the making. Could Trent's actions have manipulated him that much? Very scary.

I had a few problems with the book, starting with- where the heck were his parents??? Before and after the interrogation. Yikes. I know most YA novels downplay the role of adults...but this book took it to an extreme. And...I wanted to know more as to why Brad killed Alicia. Cormier left that just hanging. I was hoping for some closure on that issue.

I will stop here to see what you all thought and then jump back into the dialog.

14 comments:

Maria said...

I read the book yesterday (couldn't put it down), and I found it chilling, as well. I found it interesting that Jason was a fan of Steven King who also delves into the darker side of the human spirit, as did Cormier with the use of Trent. It was a quick read, so a great recommendation for 9th and 10th grade kids,but it was packed with intensity. I couldn't believe when Trent decided he felt the boy was innocent yet pushed ahead anyway to further his career at the expense of a young boy. It was definitely a psychological thriller. You could feel the discomfort of Jason sitting in this interrogation room, and you sat helplessly along watching him be manipulated. Later in the story, the reader saw the lasting effects the interrogation had on him as he demonstrated symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder. Then, I was shocked to see how Jason's mind twisted the use of the words that he confessed making him into the evil boy that Trent questioned earlier. I could not believe the ending.

I, too, wanted to know about the conflict between Brad and his sister causing him to kill her. I wondered if he hit her with a rock without the intention of killing her because of how she was left in the woods with her hands folded and her dress straightened up. I questioned the whereabouts of the parents, as well, but Cormier mentioned briefly how the mom had an appointment and the dad was at work (lame, but written into the story).

Can't wait to hear the other points of view...

Maria said...

Oh yeah...I also saw a connection to The Book Thief in that both books focus on the power and strength of words and the effect words have on others as well as on oneself.

Kathy J. said...

Maria...Good job with the connections! :-) I was also shocked when Trent realized that Jason was innocent and decide to push ahead anyway. Wow! I definitely agree with you regarding the feeling of discomfort when Jason was being interrogated! I felt like I wanted to get up and leave the room too. I did have to put the book down at several points.

Cathy said...

This book was very disturbing to me. I am not a fan of psychological thrillers for enjoyabe reading. First the rag and bone means a junk dealer. I am not sure of the connection in the book.Unless Trent sees Jason as junk but he gets to be reused when proven innocent???
This boy in real life would have had his parents and an attorney if anyone knew what they were doing. I like to believe that the police do not try to indict a person they know is innocent. Yet, Jason was the person who was different. He was easily manipulated. That is the scary part of the book, the after effect of the interrogation. How someone could lose all perspaective of themselves and become what they were accused of is very scary.
Aa I was reading this book there were several cases that were being turned over and people released after serving many years because DNA had proved they were innocent.
While Maria saw the likeness between this book and the Book Thief I saw a connection between this and Searching for Alaska that we read before. Notably I did not like either book.Both of the main characters in these books were "different" although at opposite ends of the spectrum. They are both tragically affected by thier own words.

cvanslyk said...

I totally agree that this was a very disturbing book. However, it shows how fragile and impressionable the mind of a child can be and how a person as driven and as clever as Trent can have such a dramatic effect on an innocent child. Jason was inmature but harmless. His parents were not doing their job. They should have got him involved in activities with kids his own age so he could have developed more confidence in himself and social skills. His mother should have never allowed him to go for his interrogation alone. Trent had his own agenda. He knew Jason was innocent but wanted to solve the case to impress Sarah Downs and the Senator. He actually made Jason confess to something he didn't do. I would have liked more information on Alicia and her brother. Possibly it was just an accident that Brad tried to cover up. When Brad confessed, Trent lost everything which really served him right. The tragic outcome of this was that Jason was severly damaged psychologically. Once again, family members were not around when he needed them. Jason convinced himself that if he said he killed Alicia, maybe he could have actually done that. Pills and counseling helped somewhat but he was unable to open up to his doctor. The ending was very chilling when Jason thought about where Bobo was at that point in time and took out a butcher knife. This was a very fast moving and easy to understand book that I think my students would like. It could be used for discussions about parenting and interrogations.

Maria said...

Charlene mentions that family was not around when Jason needed them similar to other Cormier books, making the adolescent character stand on his own (I Am the Cheese - which also has an adolescent being manipulated by an adult- , The Chocolate War). I thought it odd, as well, when the mother willingly let a 12 year old go to an interrogation alone.

I looked up the poem and I wonder if the reference to the rag and bone shop has to do with the ugliness that lies deep within - the junk/garbage at the bottom of his motives... The actual line reads "Now that my ladder's gone,
I must lie down where all the ladders start
In the foul rag-and-bone shop of the heart." It comes from the poem The Circus Animals' Dsertion.

Maria said...

oops typo

"Desertion" (sp error in my last comment)

Rebecca Kennedy said...

This book was a quick read that I think many students would enjoy and would lead to interesting class discussions.

Overall, I was very disturbed by the idea that someone could be so easily manipulated by someone else. And that someone would take advantage of another persons weakness in such a way. It is a scary thought that someone innocent can be convinced to confess to a crime they did not commit. I was appalled when Trent realized that Jason was innocent yet still pushed on for a confession. How horrible and confused this must have made Jason feel, the long term effects of which were shown at the end of the novel. This was ne of the most disturbing endings to a book I think I have ever read.

I too found myself shocked by the role of the parents throughout the story. I could not believe Jason's mother let him go down to the police station alone.

I was impressed by how involved I was with the well developed characters in such a short, fast moving novel.

I was also wondering what exactly happened between Brad and Alicia....

Dawn said...

The Rag and Bone Shop is one of many books that I have read by Robert Cormier. Although this was not my favorite book by Cormier, I did find that it kept my attention and was an easy read that I finished in a day, which is not like me. Like many others, I found it to be disturbing. I couldn’t believe the ending of the book. It was not what I was expecting.

This book could lead to great discussions about the legal system. In the past I was the consultant teacher in Government, and I feel that this book would be a good addition to the book report list. This book could encourage discussions about whether the guilty party is truly guilty, or how far someone is willing to go to get what they want or what they need for their job. I wonder how long the interrogation would have lasted if Jason continued to state that he was innocent. I wonder what lies would have been created to get him to confess.

As others have stated, I wanted to know more about what happened between Alicia and Brad. Also, I did not really understand why the relationship between Trent and Lottie was brought up. I assume it was to show how Trent was so into his job and that he couldn’t keep a relationship because of that. However, I do question if she knew more about how he “bullies” people into confessing when they are actually innocent. Does anyone have any other ideas on that???

Overall I would recommend this book to a variety of students. I think it could lead to endless discussions on various topics from the legal system to bullying to parental involvement (or lack of) etc…

Kim Seeley said...

I am a HUGE fan of "psycho thrillers". James Patterson is one of my favorite authors... the more disturbing the better! I LOVED this book, up until the interrogation with Trent. Where were his parents is right!? Then, it was all wrapped up when Trent came out of the room saying the brother did it? I felt like we missed a huge chunk. I wanted Cormier to come back from the dead and write a better ending. It was very disturbing how he took the butcher knife in the end. I just felt like I was left hanging and it wrapped up way too easy. When I started reading, I wondered how Cormier was going to make a good story out of only 150 small pages. Overally, I liked Chanda's Secret the best, followed by this book. I may use The Book Thief as a pot holder! ;)

Maria said...

Dawn, I think the mention of Lottie was to show how Trent focused more on his job, the recognition he received from the confessions, and the importance of the job over the importance of people. He lost Lottie because of the job (the relationship was suffering before her death); his marriage was expendable as a result of his job, just like Jason was expendable, a pawn, for his job. I can't see any other reason for the mention of her, except that she had him pegged early on - she set the reader up for what was about to happen to Jason.

Kathy J. said...

I agree with Maria...I think Cormier used Lottie to set the stage for Trent's character. It shows how obsessed he was with his job...making what he did to Jason more believable. I was amazed at the depth of characters Cormier was able to Subtle things like bringing up Trent's marriage, made a difference.

After reading this book, Star Girl seems so far removed...in so many ways! Two ends of the spectrum for sure! :-) Hard to believe this is our last book for the summer. Perhaps we could get together on that first day, the 27th? I will email you all for feedback.

Kathy J. said...

Oops...The sentence, "I was amazed at the depth of characters Cormier was able to Subtle things like bringing up Trent's marriage, made a difference." Is missing a word and should be two sentences:

"I was amazed at the depth of characters Cormier was able to develop. Subtle things like bringing up Trent's marriage, made a difference."

Dawn said...

Thanks for the insight on the relationship between Trent and Lottie. For some reason that piece just didn't fit in when I was reading it.

Many people are talking about the parents missing during the interrogation. I agree completely, but it does seem that it is a reoccuring piece with a number of the novels that we have read in the past. We always seem to question the parents or adults in the books. I wonder why???

As Kim stated, I liked Chanda's Secret the most. I couldn't put that book down once I started to read it. I did enjoy blogging about all four books. I am in if we can do this again during the school year.