A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
The 57 Bus explores race, class, gender, incarceration, and identity. It details life from two very different parts of Oakland, California, and two very different families. Sasha is a white straight-A student at a small private school in Berkeley and is agender, meaning they do not identify as male or female. Richard, who's African-American, attends public school and has lost many loved ones to murder.
When life is hard, lean on your friends, your family, your teachers. We all hurt and make mistakes. Most of all, forgive. And have compassion for others.
Positive Role Models
This story details a horrible crime, but the love shown by parents, friends, teachers, and mentors here is remarkable. The grown-ups illustrate how crucial it is to learn from your mistakes, forgive, and make amends.
Violence & Scariness
Richard's past in crime-plagued Oakland is detailed: Two of his aunts were slain before he was a teenager; his best friend was shot and killed while sitting in a parking lot; a week before the incident on the 57 bus, Thomas was robbed at gunpoint. Graphic scene in which Richard lights the sleeping Sasha's skirt on fire, and the resulting blaze that leaves third-degree burns over 22 percent of Sasha's body.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Mention of more than one teen pregnancy, including Richard's mom's. She had him when she was 14. No sexually descriptive scenes.
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Conversational swearing by teens throughout, including "s--t," "f--k," "ass," "bitch," "damn" (and variants), and "nigga," though it doesn't seem excessive.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Mentions of drug dealing in Oakland and drug searches by prison guards, as well as a friend posting "a photo of himself with a bottle of cognac and a bottle of cough syrup."
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The 57 Bus: A True Story of Two Teenagers and the Crime That Changed Their Lives is a compelling, sometimes emotional nonfiction story of a 2013 assault in Oakland, California, when an African American public school teen boy named Richard set fire to a sleeping, gender-nonconforming white private school teen named Sasha on that bus. The book includes an intense, scary scene in which Richard lights Sasha's skirt and Sasha is rushed to the hospital in an ambulance. The story follows the subsequent trial and punishment, and there are descriptions of Richard's past, including family and friends who were murdered. Much of the violence is revealed in flashback and not graphically described. Parents should be ready to discuss what it means to be a gender-nonconforming teen and what life is like for a teen in prison. Conversational swearing includes "s--t" and "f--k." The story is thought-provoking and provides great discussion points about gender, the criminal justice system, and empathy for others.
Is It Any Good?
Heartbreaking but infused with compassion, this true story is riveting. The short, compelling chapters of The 57 Bus peel back issues of race, class, and gender in a subtle, empathic way. The writing is intense and insightful, and the reader comes away more aware and feeling more compassion for both teens.
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Our Editors Recommend
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