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hangman's curse

by Frank Peretti

TommyNelson Publishers; May, 2002

ISBN: 0849977851

Click here to buy from Amazon.com

Click here to buy from www.chapters.indigo.ca

The first in a new format of books targeted to tweens and teens, The Veritas Project: Hangman's Curse will keep readers enthralled. Frank Peretti introduces Nate Springfield, his wife Sarah, and their twin children Elijah and Elisha, who are part of the Veritas Project team. This group travels the country aiding the FBI and other organizations in breaking drug rings and solving mysteries. In Hangman's Curse, the family goes undercover at a small town high school - where a mysterious curse has turned several of the star football players into raving lunatics who can only be tied to their hospital beds while doctors are baffled by their symptoms. Elijah and Elisha must befriend the various cliques at school, and help their parents solve the mystery of Abel Frye (a name the sick kids mutter in their delirium). This story could have come straight from the headlines about many schools around the country and will lead kids and young adults to an understanding of peer pressure and the pain that comes from being different. It is a riveting message on the wounded spirit that teens will never forget (c) TommyNelson.com

It has been a very long time since I've read anything written by Frank Peretti and I've never read any of his work written for youth so this was a first for me. I was interested in the story line even though it is geared towards teens, which is a good sign. I think that it would be really popular among the high school set. The characters are typical high school kids with typical high school problems. The story deals with peer pressure, satanists, mysterious deaths, illnesses etc.They are a family team of investigators hired by the government to solve some peculiar illnesses (and then deaths) at a high school. The two teens, Elijah and Elisha, must go undercover as teens and befriend some of the highschoolers to try to solve the mystery. Together with their parents, they make up The Veritas Project team.

The novel depicts a healthy family relationship between the two high school main characters and their investigative parents. It also shows healthy responses to peer pressure and how to deal with bully's by responding in atypical ways. It also shows teens giving support to those who are different or being picked on by others. Elijah also gets into a debate on the existence of absolute right and wrong with his teacher which is interesting and probably an unique way of presenting an argument against relativism in a teens eyes.

The novel is filled with adventure, daring acts on behalf of Elijah and Elisha, and spooky scenes inside the empty school at night. The descriptions are vivid and you can almost feel the hair on the back of your neck raising as you read several different descriptions.

Although I enjoyed this novel for the most part, there were a couple of problems I had and wonder if other readers would see them as well. I was somewhat disappointed with the unbelievability of part of the story line where The Veritas Project team receive no support or acknowledgement from the government, and yet the president has input into the assignment and actually decides whom to hire for the job. It seems quite unbelievable to me, but maybe teens would be more accepting. I also wondered where they get their funding from - who pays for them to travel around in this camper and supplies their costly criminology equipment? Who is their boss?

I was also a little disappointment with the little credence or validity given to the spiritual dimension and the fight that must have been going on in the spiritual realm. I had always believed that spiritual battles were Frank Peretti's specialty, but found that the medical reason for the illnesses took away any importance given to the spiritual realm of angels battling demons with the acts of the Satanists in the school. It almost negated the spiritual battles entirely, which was a surprise to me.

However, I have to say that those petty grievances aside, I was impressed by this novel and encouraged that there are good, strong, moral books out there for our teens to read today. This book has positive messages about getting along with parents, sticking up for the oppressed, not giving in to peer pressure, and offering unconditional acceptance to those who might be different or weird. I'd recommend this book without hesitation to any teen.



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