It's a nightmare most of us dreamed as a child. You're standing by the blackboard giving an oral report in front of the whole class. Some kids snicker; others point at you; soon everyone erupts in laughter. Slowly, with terror in your heart, you realize you aren't wearing any clothes! This gripping fear is what launches Brock Cole's young adult novel, his first and a fine one that won't be gathering dust.
Summer camp somewhere in America. In a hazing rite, a boy and girl are stripped then stranded on a small island. They are scared, cold, humiliated and, worst of all, they are naked. Howie and Laura are the "goats," chosen simply because their fellow campers decided they were dorky enough to be victims. The book jacket illustrates their midnight escape from the island: two kids swimming a log across a lake. That picture alone will entice readers.
The story is great. You wince for Howie and Laura, for their awkwardness and for their hurts that are rooted in a pain we can't see. Every kid can identify with being a victim, and they will certainly want to stay on the sidelines as the "goats" discover character and courage. Laura at first cries, "Oh, God, I need somebody to take care of me!" but by the end, she has surpassed herself. Howie, too, is astonished he isn't the wimp of old. They stumble, they survive, then they triumph.