Title: Detention
Author: Tristan Bancks
Published by Penguin Random House Australia
RRP: $16.99

I cannot stop showing this book to my students, it is so good. Written from the viewpoints of two characters, Sima, a refugee in a detention centre, and Daniel, a teenage boy living with his single mother in a caravan park, it explores the dilemma of what one might do if faced with a stranger in need of help, even if that help means breaking the law. After escaping from a detention centre, Sima hides in the boys’ toilets of the nearby school. Dan, on his way to school the same morning, finds an abandoned dog on a busy highway and tries to help him. But when the dog tips his water over that Dan brings him, Dan plans to go back during the first lesson of the day. The school, however, is immediately put into lockdown, Dan is trapped in his classroom. When he eventually persuades his teacher to go to the toilet, with the intention of going to the dog, Dan finds Sima hiding. Can he help her, putting himself, teacher and fellow students at risk, or should he tell the authorities who are systematically searching the school?

Tristan Bancks has produced a novel for our times. Tightly written, it is told from the viewpoint of Dan and Sima and quickly transports the reader into their world. The characterisation and setting are explored well and the plights of the main characters are realistic and heartfelt. While it deals with serious issues, there is also humour in the banter between Dan’s classmates and their teacher while in lock down, a welcome reprieve from the seriousness of the narrative. With the novel spanning a day in time, the reader is kept engaged.

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After I shared this book with my Year 7 class, I found these three boys reading the three Tristan Bancks books I discussed. Detention was borrowed immediately. Many have already read The Fall and Two Wolves, so they are familiar with the author. This familiarity is important for boys and makes selling this book even easier. This will do well in all libraries, public and school, and will suit both primary or junior and secondary schools. It would make a good read aloud book, prompting much discussion.

Booktalk

This novel is written from two viewpoints, Sima and Dan. Sima is a refugee, in a detention centre with her family. Outsiders have helped them escape, but as the line of about 50 crawl through the dust to freedom, Sima sneezes, alerting the guards.

Read pages 6 -7, stopping at “Sima keeps moving.”

Sima gets away, not knowing the fate of her family or others, and finds herself near Dan’s high school. She takes cover in the boys’ toilets.

Dan lives in a nearby caravan park with his single-mother. He often takes the shortcut to school, across the busy 6 lane M1 highway.

Dan: Read pages 11-13, stopping at “…making the dog flinch.”

Dan manages to move the dog to a safe spot and is able to get him some water. But when the dog tips the container, Dan must return soon. When Dan gets to school, however, they are quickly placed in lockdown, as there were reports of an escapee on school grounds. Dan is in lockdown with his class but manages to visit the toilets, where he finds Sima. Can he risk everything to save someone in trouble? Should he report Sima, or help her? In this fast paced story of drama is humour as well, with the banter between Dan’s classmates.

Teaching notes from Penguin Australia can be downloaded here. 

The book trailer can be viewed through this link. 

Many thanks to Penguin Random House Australia for sending this book for review.