Hannah Tucker
September 29, 2006 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Joe Miller, a journalist, goes to Kansas City’s Central High expecting to find a sobering story about poor minority students who, trapped in an area plagued by random violence and in a school deemed ”academically deficient,” just don’t stand a chance. Instead, he becomes a passionate advocate for the school’s thriving debate team and writes an account of its rise to the top of the national circuit. Miller spends too much ink describing nearly every match — fiery arguments citing Foucault and humanism dominate over half of Cross-X‘s nearly 500 pages — but his enthusiasm is infectious and the plot creates the suspense of a good courtroom thriller.

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