Bill Hauser (Illustrator)
Lerner Publishing Group
Mousetraps revolves around the theme of friendship, but also someone who was harassed at school who seeks revenge. That is a controversial topic to approach, with all of the school attacks that have taken place. And yet Pat Schmatz not only tackles it but does so with a sensitivity and insight few would have. She examines the complex issues around harassment and bullying at school, and the aftermath of it. It follows a young man who returns to the High School where he had been attacked as a child by a group of other boys. Pat has stated; "The day Columbine happened, Rick began to talk in my head and I felt as if I knew him. The specifics of the story developed from there, but Rick was fully formed from the beginning. Knowing him the way I did, I couldn't possibly present him in any other way." And in doing so she presents a wounded young man who is working to seek his revenge but in the process starts his own true healing.
The story also revolves around the theme of friendship. Maxie and Rick were friends in grade school - they were best friends. They would design elaborate mousetraps, crazy inventions. Rick would come up with the ideas and Maxie would put them to paper. After Rick was attacked at school he disappeared from school and from Maxie's life. Then years later he shows up the first day of High School. To Maxie, in some ways he is the same person, but in other, darker ways, he is not. As Maxie works out her feelings for Rick, things around Rick seem to be unraveling fast. Maxie needs to figure out what she wants and if she can be the one to help Rick.
This story was written with skill and craft. It portrays a conflicted young man on the verge of violence. Yet Schmatz does an amazing job of showing us what can shape someone and push them to the brink of violence, and does it with understanding and grace. It was an amazing book and I highly recommend it to readers of all ages.
Books by Pat Schmatz:
Circle the Truth
Mrs. Estronsky and the U.F.O.
Author Profile Interview with Pat Schmatz