A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
May inspire readers to learn about the actual drug war, and also think critically about a series of issues, like who is a victim and who is a criminal.
Readers will be asked to think about the drug war, and who its victims are. Also, what role do Americans play in the violence?
Positive Role Models
The protagonists here are child assasins who commit terrible acts, but they do put a human face on a very unsettling story. Readers will learn about the hardships they face, and understand better why they make the choices they do.
Violence & Scariness
The main characters become child-assassins. Several murders described, including one with a baseball bat. Sonny is abused by his uncle and beaten on the street. Some gruesome torture is described. A child is forced to kill himself.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
A reference to testicles. References to prostitution (both child and adult), and to oral sex.
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Plenty of moderate swearing.
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Products & Purchases
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Drug dealers rule the streets, and young boys admire them and work for them. The boys are given drugs before each hit so that they don't back out. They also sell and smoke contraband cigarettes and marijuana, and drink alcohol.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this is a rough book, both in content and in subject. There is swearing, brutal violence (several murders are described, including one with a baseball bat), drugs, alcohol, and smoking. But none of this is as disturbing as the subject: child assassins working for Medellin drug lords. Through this story, readers will learn about the hardships these kids face, and understand better why they make the choices they do. They will also be asked to think about some critical questions, from who is to blame for the drug war, to when someone stops being a victim and becomes a criminal.
Is It Any Good?
This is rough stuff, make no mistake. Every now and then we hear something on the nightly news about the drug wars, the narcotrafficantes, the gangs and militia in Columbia, but it takes something like this powerful book to make it real, especially to teens. While the events depicted here are horrific, author Matt Whyman does keep the reader at some emotional distance. Ordinarily this would be a criticism, but here it's more like praise. These are characters with a miserable present and no future, and readers will be disturbed enough without having emotionally identified with Sonny and Alberto. But the book will still have a powerful impact on your kids, and parents should be prepared to discuss the intense material.
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Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.
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Frequently Challenged and Banned Books for Kids and Teens
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