Thirty years ago, when I read this book back in high school, I focused only on the horror of the sinister stranger, Wissey Jones, who wanted to buy Barry Rudd. As an adult, however, I see a deeper horror at work.
The story, told in the format of a court transcript, is a quick, easy read. However, the themes - the shortcomings of the educational system of the US, television's corruption of society, and peoples' blind belief in the need for national security - will stick with me for a long time. The tragedy is not just that Mr. Jones wants to buy a child; it's that he has the support of so many people. Barry - the precious ten-year-old - is stuck in the middle, left without a voice or a choice in the matter.
The character development in this book is fascinating. Decent characters become indecent while sketchy characters show a strong core. Also, despite the fact that this book was written in 1960, it has a great deal to say about 2013. In fact, I was amazed (and saddened) by the similarities of politics now and then.
On its surface, this book is simple, but it goes much, much deeper. I highly recommend this classic.