Lord of the Flies, by William Golding
Summary: The book begins with a crashed plane. The plane had about 30 boys in it, and the pilot died...somehow the boys all ended up safe on the ground, but separated all throughout the island. Ralph finds a conch with the help of a tubby but smart boy who is scorned and ostracized all throughout the book (we never learn his name, they call him Piggy). Ralph blows the conch and all the boys on the island go to him. He holds an assembly, and they all discuss what they should do. They agree that they need some kind of signal for ships... so they agree it would be wise to always have a fire on top of the mountain, and put green leaves on it for smoke whenever they saw a ship. (while they are starting the first fire it gets out of control and a small child is killed). They all vote Ralph for captain over an obnoxious redhead named Jack Merridew. Jack and his choir are designated as the "hunters".
Anyway, life passes, and Jack and his hunters have keeping the fire as their responsibility. But they are preoccupied with hunting down a pig and killing it. While they are away hunting a pig, the fire goes out... and Ralph and the others see a ship... which passes by because the fire is gone. Ralph is furious with Jack, and Jack and the others seem like they don't hold rescue in high regard... it's frustrating how irresponsible and childish they are. This disagreement eventually leads to the splitting apart of Jack and Ralph, and Jack sets up his own hunting party in a fort on the opposite side of the island. Little by little, the members of Ralph's fort leak out into Jack's, and eventually Jack is left alone. The members of Jack's tribe become more savage, with their painted faces, and they eventually kill Piggy and Simon. In the end, Jack leads a manhunt for Ralph but right on the verge of killing him they run into a naval officer! They have been saved... he thinks they are playing children's games and Ralph tells him that two have been murdered. Then Ralph sobs for the loss of innocence...
Critique: Wow. This book awed me with it's power. It makes you think... is our essense really so savage and bloodthirsty? The speed of their decline into savagery shocked me... surely they had been trained well by then. How could they discard their inbred social characteristics so easily? What also left an impression on me was Ralph... at the first of the book he was pliant to the whims of the mob, pleasure-seeking and immature. By the end he is a leader who laments the loss of innocence and reason.