Bryan knows what’s tight for him –reading comics, drawing superheroes, and hanging out with no drama. But drama is every day where he’s from, and that get him tight, wound up.
And now Bryan’s friend Mike pressures him with ideas of fun that are crazy risky. At first, it’s a rush following Mike, hopping turnstiles, subway surfing, and getting into all kinds of trouble. But Bryan never really feels right acting so wrong, and drama really isn’t him. So which way will he go, especially when his dad tells him it’s better to be hard and feared then liked?
But if there’s one thing Bryan’s gotten from his comic heroes, it’s that he has power – to stand up for what he feels.
As a girl who just graduated from a 4-year urban high school near NYC, I expected to know at least SOME of the slang used in his novel. I’ll admit, I knew a bit, but some parts of the book felt to me as if I was reading a completely different language. This would not be a bad thing for people who are used to speaking this way in everyday life, but for those who do not speak this way, I just suggest that you take it slow and really immerse yourself in Bryan’s world. You won’t be disappointed.
This book tells an important story about peer pressure. Bryan originally thought that Mike’s plans were innocent, like skipping school to read in a cafe or on top of an apartment building. Sure, they were going to miss class, but both of them were smart enough to catch up without even stressing out. Then, Mike starts wanting to do more dangerous things such as subway surfing and turnstile hopping, and Bryan thinks that there is no way out. Even though the two were only in middle school, they were doing things that seemed harmless but could have landed them in jail. This could also be things that city middle schoolers trying to have fun would try to do when they don’t have a mall or park to hang out in.
I also enjoyed the inclusion of other issues, such as parents arguing and parent incarceration. It definitely tears a family apart when one member is in jail, and this I have seen in real life. I loved how brave Bryan’s mom was, raising her kids without their dad for quite a large chunk of their lives. Even though she loved the father, he was unwilling to change from the dangerous ways that landed him in jail multiple times. I hope that things would get better for the family after the book ended, but since this isn’t a series, we might not ever know.
It was also important that the book said that you didn’t have to be intimidating to make people like you. Bryan had learned this from his father and Mike, but when he starts to find other friends, he finds that being a good person sometimes means just backing off.
All of the lessons that this book teaches are so important and can relate to kids no matter what color they are or where they live. Kids of any race can have parents that are in jail, or are basically being raised by a single mother, or can be influenced by bad friends. I would recommend this to kids in middle school and high school, or teachers that want to see into the lives of some of their students.
I received an advance copy of this book and this is my voluntary review.
Overall Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
About the Author
Torrey Maldonado, the author of the critically acclaimed Secret Sadness, is a teacher in Brooklyn, New York, where he was born, raised, and lives. His books reflect his students’ and his experiences.