Desperate to earn his older brother, Louis’, attention, fifteen-year-old James enlists in Louis’ drug dealing business. However, when James is caught by police and Louis leaves him to fend for himself, James finds himself the small, scrawny kid locked up in “juvie”. Desiring only to do his time and get out, James must find a way to survive amidst a sea of pre-eighteen-year-old “gangbangers”, and learns the true meaning of self-respect and loyalty.
I think the saddest thing about this book is that it’s so real. Goodman, in the author’s note, even apologizes for how sad the book is. However, its sadness is also reality. If you’re curious at all about the juvenile criminal justice system, this is the book for you. The characters are strikingly real, and the situations even more so. I especially liked that Goodman doesn’t make the novel too preachy — it’s not a “scared straight” book. This is just James’ attempt to find himself in an incredibly hostile environment, after he’s been lost for years. I have to warn you though — it’s heavy.
Aside from the sadness, I feel like something just fell flat with Goodman’s plot. James’ story is an important one, and he’s an easy character to relate to, but there was just something missing. Don’t get me wrong — it’s a good book. Just not a great one. Still worth a try, though! You might love it!
*YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults
*TAYSHAS Reading List, 2014
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