Cover image for Tribes
Slade, Arthur, 1967-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York, NY : Wendy Lamb Books, 2002.
Physical Description:
134 pages ; 22 cm
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.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR UG 4.1 4.0 68044.
Format :


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X Young Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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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.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Gr. 7^-10. Percy Montmount likes to think of himself as an anthropologist--as was his father, who died after being bitten by a tsetse fly while he was working with the pygmies. But Percy's area of examination is grade 12, where he observes the various "tribes" --like the jocks and the born-agains. The only other person in Percy's particular tribe is Elissa; Will, their friend, killed himself. There are good things about this book. Percy has an original voice, and the surprise ending, in which readers learn that Percy's father is only dead to his son (he left the family for another woman), packs some wallop. But this seems so unreal at times it goes beyond satire. The action takes place during the week or so before graduation, hardly enough time for Percy to suddenly be sent to the school psychologist and then be "cured" of his piercings and ravings by a visit from his father. And none of the kids talk about their plans after graduation. Maybe that happens in Saskatoon, where the book is set, but American teens will notice. For larger libraries that can afford to overlook the shortcomings and enjoy what is fresh. --Ilene Cooper

Publisher's Weekly Review

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.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Review

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 (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.