A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
What's the story?
DeShawn lives in the projects in New York City. There are few opportunities for success; teens regularly join gangs and sell drugs, and gunshots are more frequent than bird songs. DeShawn is a smart kid who knows the gang and drug life can only end in tragedy, but how can he stand by and watch his family starve?
Is it any good?
This is a painfully one-dimensional novel that could be used as a script for any after-school special, crime drama, or urban movie. When a book is set in an urban setting where poverty, poor choices, and lack of opportunity are prevalent, critics tend to call the book "gritty." However, many of these books only feed off of press snippets and writer imagination of what the 'hood' is really like, and so the stories lean closer to stereotypes of urban life. This novel, unfortunately, is no exception.
Stock characters -- the hard working grandma, the knocked-up older sister, the good kid struggling to stay out of trouble while enduring peer pressure and oppressive poverty -- are all in place here, as well as stock ghetto situations like eating cereal with water, multiple sex partners, pregnancies, lack of male responsibility, and blinged-out dope dealers that are anti-heroes to the residents. Add in a couple of drive-bys, double crosses, and a smidge of regret, and it really misses the mark.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about DeShawn's decision. Why did he finally make the choice he did when it came to joining the gang? Did he have other options? What were they?
Was Marcus a hero or an anti-hero? What things did he do right? What things did he do wrong?
How do you feel about the characters? Do they feel like real people, or stereotypes of real people and stories you've seen or read about?
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.