Prince of Wales Boarding School, nestled in a serene countryside, fondly nicknamed "Patch" was responsible for turning young boys into esteemed gentlemen who would one day occupy the hallways of world government power and authority. Behind the high walls lay a secret, a secret not told until now. Led by a group of students leaders known as "Prefects" the students were subjected to untold physical and verbal abuse, intimidation, fear and bullying. No one ever questioned their authority ... until Gabriel, a freshman transfer, a "rabble", forever changed what it meant to be in PATCH.
Bullying is an all too real phenomena in schools today. I have dealt with it in the middle school where I work, and have repeatedly read about it’s devastating effects in the news. As a former WAC stationed at West Point Military Academy back in the 70’s, I was fully aware of how senior cadets, responsible for inducting the plebes, used abusive, in your face intimidation, and bullying to strip each individual of self-esteem. Those who survive the “Beast Barracks” could then be educated as the Army’s future military leaders. Those who did not were quickly weeded out. What always struck me as insane is how after being treated this way the next group of seniors had no trouble treating the next group of plebes in the same manner.
Patch-Assumption is a Crime by Mucheru Njaga reminded me a great deal of West Point. “Loosely based on his own experiences at Prince of Wales Boarding School,” Njaga vividly portrays how the authorization of power over others corrupts. I was immediately immersed in the plot. Gabriel, the protagonist is introduced as a 5 year-old boy, whose drunken father continually beats him and tells him he is useless. After a fight at school, where Gabriel defends himself against a bully and wins, he is sent to Prince of Wales school by the principal, who has his own agenda. Gabriel, recognizing the injustice that surrounds the unfettered authority of the Prefects, fights back. He becomes the force that other students rally around. Unfortunately, as the Prefects constantly remind their wards, “assumption is a crime,” and Gabriel’s attempts to stand up against the abuse metered out daily, becomes a criminal who must be dealt with.
I found Patch-Assumption is a Crime a well executed story, that firmly illustrates the mindset of a bully. In this case, the mindset is perpetrated to maintain an institution’s reputation. Njaga, through his graphic accounts of the Prefect’s power, has his readers shuddering as each intimidation is experienced. I remained quite fearful for Gabriel throughout the story. I loved his courage, and his ability to stand, alone at first, and then with the rest of his housemates, and I thrilled when they actually seemed to be winning. The end was a surprise, but quite satisfying because it illustrates how one person standing against a bully can effect change. It is a powerful message for our youths today, and I will be recommending this book to all my students. I am also hopeful that it will be added to my school’s book battle list next year.
Source: Received review copy from author