Scorpion Shards by Neal Shusterman Review
Release Date: November 1995
Age: Middle School, Young Adult
Buy it: Amazon
“In like a flash and out in the blink of an eye. The boy called Dillon Cole was in the street in an instant and vanished into the foggy morning. The streets were not crowded, but there were enough people for Dillon to lose himself among unknown faces. He wove through them, brushing past their shoulders, leaving a wake of chaos behind him. The souls he bumped into lost their concentration and sense of direction--a woman stopped short, forgetting where she was going; a man lost his train of thought in the middle of a conversation; a girl, just for a moment, forgot who she was, and why she was even there.…but then Dillon passed, and their thoughts returned to normal. They would never know that their confusion was caused by Dillon's mere touch. But Dillon knew. He wondered if believing such a thing was enough to send him to the nuthouse. If that wasn't enough to have him locked away, certainly the other things would do the job.A veritable bookworm in primary and middle school, I happened across Neal Shusterman’s The Scorpion Shards in my school’s library and was (admittedly) intrigued by the cover and the book’s tagline, which appealed to my fifth-grade mind’s obsession with epic battles between good and evil. Plus, the main characters, of which there were six, were all roughly my age, making it easier to plant myself in their shoes and imagine myself in the midst of the fantasy.
Things like that business with the piano. For all the commotion it had caused, it had been an easy enough stunt. It was a simple thing to get into the deserted top-floor lounge on a Sunday morning. Since the grand piano was on wheels, it hadn't been that hard to ease across the floor, out onto the patio. As he moved the piano, his fury had grown along with the burning, screaming need to finish this act of destruction--a need that ate at his gut like an uncontrollable hunger.
There were epic battles between good and evil, there was fantasy, some romance, but the book turned out to be far better than I could have ever imagined, and still stands out in my memory as one of my favorite childhood books.
Which is why I read it again as an adult, about a week ago.
The decades between reads gave me a new perspective while reading about the six archetypal young teens battling inner demons outwardly manifested as superhuman powers: Dillon Cole, “the destroyer,” whose touch scrambles minds and whose “wrecking hunger” can only be satisfied by wreaking havoc; Deanna Chang, hyper-sensitive and afraid of the world, whose contagious emotions change the weather; Winston (‘Stone) Pell, stuck in childhood like Peter Pan as he shrinks while the other kids grow, can paralyze with a touch; Victoria, a girl with disfiguring acne, can infect others like poison ivy; Lourdes, who is so obese she literally has her own gravity that pulls things toward her; and Michal Lipranski, an oversexed boy with a magnetic animal charm that makes girls desire him and boys hate him.
They are outcasts, freaks, and they are all tied together by their shared birthday and by pieces of a star-gone-supernova’s soul. Their powers reflect the extreme self-consciousness, frustration, and fears that come along with adolescence.
On one night, in different parts of the country, each teen is led by an unknown force toward each other until they finally form a group and begin to unravel the mystery of their powers. Once together, the teens discover that their powers don’t work on each other, and more importantly and urgently, that they are slowly dying, being consumed by the beasts within them.
As the group desperately searches for the answer to the riddle of how to defeat the parasites that live inside them, two of the teens surrender to their powers and become antagonistic forces, wanting instead to mature their powers instead of be rid of them.
Racing against the clock, all six ultimately are transported to another world where they must face not only the demons inside them, but each other, and their deepest fears, as well.
In broad strokes, the book might not sound like anything special, but I’ve discovered that it truly appeals to young students (especially to boys) on their own level, unlike so many other books that seem to be published for critics or parents, and that the book offers a truly profound message to students about facing fears and turning weaknesses into strengths.
The pages practically burn from turning them so quickly, and the plot twists and impressive imaginative turns the book takes are sure to entertain even the most stubborn readers. Even after almost twenty years, I still recommend this book to anyone whole-heartedly. It’s a wild ride, full of more inventiveness than most books today. Plus, I found out after re-reading the book that it is the first in the Star Shards trilogy by Shusterman, so I’ve got reading material for the next week or so!
This is a guest post by Nadia Jones who blogs at online college about education, college, student, teacher, money saving, movie related topics. You can reach her at nadia.jones5 @ gmail.com.
Thank you very much Nadia, for the wonderful review and guest post!