Fourteen-year-old Chris Winchester has lived in two worlds, a Winchester by name, the prestigious rich of the town, but attending the public schools with friends from blue-collar families. Since his father had chosen not to take over the family company he reasoned that he'd be overlooked with the riches, as well.
But when the employees begin a strike against the Winchester plant and his friends' families are in jeopardy of losing their jobs, Chris finds that his name becomes the dividing line; he is no longer accepted by his closest associates.At the same time, his uncle and grandfather see him as a viable "trainee" for a future in the big company. "This family has a lot of power, and when you have power, you use it. . . ," he's told. "These people will never like you . They will defer to you, but they will never like you. . . . What the others think does not matter."
But it does matter to Chris.
When Mr. Melas tells him the facts from the workers' point of view Chris is torn between two sets of values hinged on wealth, social class and his own future. "The Winchesters don't know what it's like to take handouts to feed your family. Your name's a Winchester. That'll be enough for most people around here."
James Lincoln Collier, well-known for his historical fiction about social imperatives, has captured a dilemma of power and prejudice, realistically staged through the life of a teenager. In doing it in this voice Collier is able to avoid the trap of a tenuous economic stability on which the Winchester electronics plant is based. Obviously, the Winchesters have kept abreast of technological changes and the impact of the foreign market, to still be the place of business for nearly the whole town. There's never a hint in the book that such a monopoly will disappear in a high-tech future.
The plot is straight forward and needs no allusions to those realities. The conflict in "The Winchesters" is basically a universal storyline, a boy torn between two worlds, rich and poor. The story is told with a finesse typical of of a Collier story. The resolution that the author makes is only one of the ways that the story could end.
Collier, who lives in New York City, has also written "My Brother Sam Is Dead" (Newbery Award Honor, 1975) "Jump Ship to Freedom," "War Comes to Willy Freeman," "Who Is Carrie?" (all with his brother Christopher Collier), "Planet Out of the Past," "The Teddy Bear Habit" and "Outside Looking In," and nonfiction "The Hard Life of the Teenager." His musical interests are in jazz and he has also written about "The Great Jazz Artists" and "Louis Armstrong."