8th Grade Page Turners

Tyrell’s world is not easy to hear about.  A homeless Afican-American Teen in the Bronx, Tyrell’s goal is to hold his family together and move his spaced-out mother and seven-year-old brother “home” to the projects. Available money-making ventures, though, also involve brushes with the law, and Tyrell doesn’t want to end up in jail like his father: “I don’t wanna be the kinda man my pops turned out to be. . . .Nah. I’ma hafta do better than him.” Readers listen to Tyrell for just one week, but that is enough to recognize the frustration of his world. “I really wanna put my  fist through the wall. . . . I gotta do something. I wanna go somewhere, but I don’t got nowhere to go.” Born in the Bronx, author Coe Booth continues to live there, and this first novel takes mature readers there, too.

Julia Divino lies awake most nights afraid of what the sirens she hears might mean. She and her best friend “Q” are determined to keep their middle school oath not to join any of the gangs that rule their school and the surrounding neighborhoods. It is not an easy oath, considering their friend Marie has joined a Bloods affiliate, and Julia’s best guy friend Chuck is a member of the Flatbush Junction Crips. However, when Eric Valienté transfers to their school and begins dating Julia, his decision to join Chuck’s gang sets the group on a downward spiral. Julia dumps Eric for joining against her wishes and lying, but when Marie takes Julia aside one night and tells her that Marie’s crew is planning to jump Eric, Julia feels obligated to warn him. Eric’s escape and a threatening midnight text?? are only the beginning of the troubles. Marie’s gang sees Julia as a snitch and beat her severely. Eric and Chuck convince their gang to retaliate, and the lines are drawn. Julia understands the Crips’ protection will not last long and once Marie threatens Julia’s other friends, it is clear she must join or die. Eric and Julia slowly become involved in increasingly high-profile activities, culminating in the arrest of Eric, Chuck’s brother, and several gang Lieutenants on a drug charge. When Eric is released before the others even have their bail hearings, it is apparent he has double-crossed everyone and Julia is back in danger. She agrees to meet him to learn the truth but is accidentally stabbed in a fight when two Crips ambush them. The novel avoids any after-school stereotypes, though the language and plot–including violence, sexual situations, and marijuanause–may be too realistic for less mature readers. Reviewer: Jennifer Wood

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