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Book Review

The November Criminals by Sam Munson has been reviewed by Focus on the Family’s marriage and parenting magazine.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements

Conclusion

Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Addison Schacht is an 18-year-old high school senior. He lives with his dad, an anxiety-ridden pottery teacher, in an upper-middle-class Washington, D.C., suburb. Addison is part of a gifted and talented program at his school. He considers himself smart and philosophical, and internally criticizes nearly everyone he encounters. He has a lucrative business selling marijuana to his wealthy peers and frequently tells Holocaust jokes. He also spends a lot of time with Digger, who is his lover but not his girlfriend.

Addison and Digger attend what Addison calls a segregated high school. Their gifted program admits a few black students each year to appease the consciences of the white administrators. When a black classmate named Kevin Broadus is shot at the coffee shop where he worked, Addison becomes obsessed with finding out what happened. He didn’t know Kevin well, but he has a lot of questions. For example, why did the store’s other employees only get shot once or twice while the mild-mannered saxophone player sustained 12 bullet wounds?

Digger assists Addison in his quest to learn more about Kevin. Addison also questions teachers at school about Kevin, telling them he’s working on a project. Addison’s pot supplier, Noel, tells Addison he thinks a redneck named Lorriner might have had something to do with the murder.

One night when they’re high, Digger and Addison crank call Lorriner and tell him they know what he did. Their elation is short-lived, as Lorriner calls them back using caller ID. He surmises Addison’s nationality based on the teen’s last name, and he starts spewing Jewish racial slurs. The next day, Addison returns home to find a brick has been thrown through his front window. The brick is wrapped in banner with similar slurs and a swastika.

Scared, Addison and Digger go to the police. Addison gives them his standard story, that he’s doing a report on Kevin. He tries to get them to investigate Lorriner for the crime. They tell him they’re not able to give him any information, nor can they question Lorriner based on his speculations.

Next, Addison and Digger visit Noel and his supplier, David. David gives Addison a gun. Awed and a little nervous, Addison takes it to the junkyard to fire it. Then Addison and Digger drive to Lorriner’s house and throw a brick through his window. He yells racial slurs about Addison’s Jewish heritage before sicking his dog on the kids.

When trapped by the dog, Digger fires on the animal. The distraught Lorriner, who isn’t much older than Addison and Digger, carries the dying dog inside. The kids follow and hold him at gunpoint, trying to get information about Kevin’s death. Frightened and weakened, Lorriner defecates in his pants and swears he had nothing to do with Kevin’s murder. They believe he’s telling the truth and finally leave.

After the night at Lorriner’s house, Digger distances herself from Addison and won’t speak to him. He’s confused about this and spends his newfound free time making and hanging posters requesting information about Kevin. He even sneaks into Kevin’s parents’ house.

Addison becomes obsessed with getting rid of the money he’s made as a drug dealer. He takes it to Noel’s house, but ends up there on the night Noel is hosting a dogfight. Noel and David bet Addison’s money on the dog that ends up winning. The brutal sight of the dogfight turns Addison’s stomach. Despite his best efforts to get rid of the money, he ends up leaving Noel’s house with many thousands of dollars.

Addison discovers Kevin’s father, who had seen the posted signs requesting information on Kevin, has been trying to call his pager. Addison goes to the Brodus house and talks to the father, who tries to understand the young man’s obsession with his son. Addison learns Kevin was a drug dealer, too, but that he was likely shot simply because someone wanted the watch he was wearing.

Addison purposely leaves his drug money in the Broadus home. As Addison is trying to make a quick exit, he trips and hits his head on their piano. He spends several days in the hospital recovering. Digger comes to visit him, giving him hope that maybe they can rebuild their relationship.

In the days that follow, Addison gets rid of all his drugs and supplies, including the gun and his pager. Kevin’s parents donate a large sum of money, presumably Addison’s drug money, to the school for an essay contest. Addison’s nemesis wins. He makes a scene at her awards assembly by singing a crude song and getting the student body to join in.

Addison starts concentrating on his entrance essay for college. After drinking a lot of wine, he ends up writing this book-length essay. He ends with some final thoughts about his guilt and the future and trying to have a more normal relationship with Digger.

Christian Beliefs

None

Other Belief Systems

Addison and his father attend a religious service once every four years. Addison says it doesn’t matter what you leave behind as a legacy if you are f-word eternally. He’s thought about praying but doesn’t see the point. The only thing he wants badly enough to pray about is having his mom back.

He’s read Catholic theologians who say God himself can’t change the past. Despite all he’s read, he believes God could have limitless power. He suggests that’s why the Jews in history had so much trouble, in compensation for their behavior.

In some of his concluding thoughts, Addison suggests nothing is explicable, even a cloud or a wave. Everything was formed by chance, just like people. He does conclude that people cannot direct reality but must have the blessing and assistance of a god. Addison refers to Episcopalians as “bloodless and self-delighted.”

Authority Roles

At age 7, Addison found his mother as she was dying of a brain aneurism. His father is a potter who teaches at the local art institute and often has affairs with his students. He frequently makes comments indicating he wonders if life is worth living.

Addison views his father as a weak-minded individual who is terrible at his art. Dad started giving Addison permission to forge his signature on school disciplinary paperwork in ninth grade. Addison describes his customers’ parents as people who pretend to be oblivious. He believes all of his professors are idiots who are easily duped by high school students.

Profanity/Violence

The Lord’s name is used in vain repeatedly. The f-word and n-word, along with other words such as d--k, s---, balls, a--, c--t, b--ch, tits, p--s, f-ggot, kike, b--tard, c---s-----, anal and suck are used throughout.

One dog is shot and another is killed in a brutal dog fight. Addison reminds his readers of the horrific crimes committed against 6 million Jews during the Holocaust, including rape, torture, beatings, starvation, drownings and being burned and fed to bunkmates.

Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality

When a teacher gets excited about something, Addison says it’s like she’s having an orgasm. He feels sorry for Kevin dying at this age when sex and autonomy are just becoming realities. Addison says losing sex would be as bad as losing life itself. He looks anxiously toward college for the possibilities of unlimited drinking and sex.

Addison and his female friend Digger have an arrangement: They are not boyfriend and girlfriend, but frequently have sex. He almost always refers to sex using the f-word. He justifies their relationship, and its lack of commitment, by saying sex is natural and necessary for people their age. Sometimes they have marathon sex sessions that last all afternoon.

Addison makes a number of comments about Digger’s gigantic breasts and notes that other characters notice them, too. Their sexual encounters frequently happen just before or after they smoke pot together. Addison talks about the sexual stamina of guys his age and mentions his own erections several times. He gets one when he thinks about watching a porn movie with Digger.

He also talks about masturbating, using the term “jerking off.” He feels he hasn’t achieved much in the sexuality department because he’s only slept with one girl. He believes one should sleep with as many as possible. He mentions two of his teachers everyone believes are “boning” each other. He uses the same term to talk about a classmate known for having sex with two guys at the same time.

Addison mentions rape when he discusses characters and story lines from Greek mythology. He notes the astounding contours of a female police officer’s body, and he says it is a reminder from God about his (Addison’s) lowly station. Addison’s dad brings students home for sex. A woman named Fatima frequently visits, and Addison can hear them having loud intercourse. Noel makes up many detailed stories about his sexual conquests and shares them with Addison.

Homosexuality is mentioned a few times in passing. Addison’s supplier frisks him, almost touching his scrotum. Addison jokes with Digger about wet dreams. When Addison’s classmate wins an essay competition, she donates her prize to Planned Parenthood.

Discussion Topics

Additional Comments/Notes

Racism: One of Addison’s classmates complains that having to listen to the choir sing “Mary Don’t You Weep” at Kevin’s memorial assembly violates her First Amendment rights. Addison notes that his program at school admits a few blacks each year and holds Black History Month assemblies to appear cultured and ease white consciences. He talks about the racial tensions in Washington, D.C., and the surrounding area, and suggests that some people collect ethnic friends like ornaments and try to make themselves seem tolerant. He says whites are invisible to the police in D.C. Addison refers to Lorriner as white trash. Lorriner throws a brick through Addison’s front window when he learns Addison is Jewish. The brick is wrapped in a banner bearing a swastika. Lorriner makes a number of profane and derogatory remarks about Addison’s heritage. Other kids in Addison’s childhood called him profanity-laced names for the same reason.

Drugs: Addison sells pot to wealthier classmates at his high school. He also smokes it frequently with his suppliers and Digger. He takes time to describe different ways pot can be ingested, different qualities of the drug and some of his selling techniques. He calls it the consummate drug for adolescents because it produces a sense of potential. Addison believes Lorriner may be in possession of meth, based on the location of his home. Addison offers pot to his dad when he’s trying to liquidate his stash. He tells Dad everyone smokes it, it isn’t anything bad, and it doesn’t even do any harm. Addison and Digger sometimes drive while high.

Alcohol: Dad regularly gets drunk on Tuesday nights. After Addison stops selling and using pot, he begins drinking and getting drunk on lots of wine. Addison gets high with his suppliers, who are often drunk at the same time.

Animal cruelty: Digger shoots Lorriner’s dog, and it dies slowly. Addison witnesses a dog fight in Noel’s basement during which one dog kills the other for sport.

Lying: Addison lies to nearly everyone he knows in an effort to justify his search for information on Kevin.

Theft: Addison steals Kevin’s school records from the office. Noel was kicked out of a school for selling porn he stole from a drug store.

Offensive humor: Addison frequently tells horrifying Holocaust jokes. He says he does it to inflict cruelty on the reason-inundated mind.

Unhealthy self image: Addison thrives on guilt, as if something he’s done or his own selfish behavior has somehow led to Kevin’s death. He believes he is like the November Criminals, also called historical German traitors, who betrayed their country by virtue of their weakness and disingenuousness.

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Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. The inclusion of a book's review does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.

Episode Reviews

Credits

Rating

Readability Age Range

16 and up

Author

Sam Munson

Cast

Director

Distributor

Network

Performance

Record Label

Platform

Publisher

Doubleday, a division of Random House Inc.

Released

On Video

Year Published

2010

Awards

Unknown

Reviewer

We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

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