The Power of One (Young Reader's Edition) Review

The Power of One (Young Reader's Edition)
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There are two versions of Bryce Courtney's "The Power of One"; the original version and this, the junior novelisation. The two are quite different so make sure that you double-check what publication you're getting before you order. I would suggest the older version for most readers, since this basically tells the same story in simplified form. However, in Australia and New Zealand, "The Power of One" has reached almost cult-status in terms of popularity, and some younger readers will leap at the chance to familiarise themselves with the story before they are ready to tackle the more complex and violent subject matter of the original. Furthermore, it is a perfect choice for school libraries and/or compulsory reading in classrooms.
Like the adult version, the junior novelisation is concerned with the life of Peekay, a young boy living in 1930's South Africa, coping with racism, tension between the various social groups of the time (the Boers, the English and the Africans) and the growing threat of World War II. This younger version begins in the same place as the adult one, with Peekay being sent to a boarding school in which he is urinated on by his fellow students - a clear sign that Courtney is not prepared to soften the harshness and cruelty of the original book for the benefit of a younger audience. In comparison this story ends after the famous concert at the prison, the moment in which the adult novel really begins.
The junior novel follows Peekay's journey from childhood into earlier adolescence and the beginnings of the adult world, told in significantly less detail and in more simplified language than the first "Power of One". On the way, he makes friends from every race and class, learning the most important truth of his life: to think with his head and then with his heart. In particular, he finds work in a jail, inventing an ingenious way to help the convicts communicate with their families on the outside, and discovers the sport of boxing along with the remarkable idea that you do not have to be the biggest in order to be the best.
Courtney's gift comes from finding the grey areas in each situation, showing us clearly that one race, one country, one ideology is never wholly righteous; goodness can only come from an individual. Near the beginning of the book Peekay is persecuted by Nazi-supporters; later a dear friend of his unfairly is jailed for being a German. Humanity's overwhelming desire to classify and then judge people based on these classifications is never more frustrating than it is here, and it is a lesson well worth learning.
Although this is a more-than-adequate introductory book for younger readers eager to tackle "The Power of One", I would recommend to anyone else over the age of twelve (or any confident reader under that age) that they simply pick up the first (and best) adult version.

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