Reviewed by K. Osborn Sullivan for TeensReadToo.com
THE ADVENTURES OF MICHAEL MACINNES tells the story of a teenage orphan who receives a scholarship to an exclusive all-boys high school. Set in Prohibition-era America, the book follows our hero as he carves out a place for himself at his new school. MacInnes starts his academic career by accidentally stealing the Dean's car, and things take off from there. His adventures include standing up to bullies, falling in love, and starting an underground school newspaper.
MacInnes is an original character. He is a poet who tries to live an idealized, romantic life. Sometimes the rest of the world isn't kind to poets, however, as MacInnes discovers.
In a way, this is a classic fish-out-of-water tale, but the interesting part is that everyone at Stoney Batter School is a fish-out-of-water. No one feels completely at ease. No one's life is perfect, regardless of how it might look to outsiders. But MacInnes has a gift for helping those around him recognize their own inability to fit in. Some appreciate having the truth about themselves revealed, while others resent the mirror that MacInnes holds before them.
I really enjoyed THE ADVENTURES OF MICHAEL MACINNES. MacInnes fights ignorance and intolerance with cleverness and good humor. There are wild adventures, interesting characters, and amusing dialogue. The only thing I didn't like was the story's supernatural element. Giving MacInnes a type of spirit guide who pops up occasionally was unnecessary and detracted from the rest of the tale. The story could easily have lost that fantasy element and been stronger for it. But otherwise, this was an interesting novel that I liked a great deal.
Finally, I have to issue a warning for younger readers. This one is definitely meant for an older audience. It is set in high school and includes pretty much every adolescent issue you can imagine. Everything from drinking and smoking to sex and a sadistic staff member at the school. I thought the issues were handled well, but those dreaded "adult themes" aren't for everyone.