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.