A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Tight, by Torrey Maldonado, is a novel about a relatable Afro-Puerto Rican sixth-grade boy walking the tricky tightrope of having friends while trying to live with "no drama" in his Brooklyn housing project. The author works as a middle school teacher in the Brooklyn neighborhood where he grew up, and has his finger on the pulse of this age group, expertly capturing Bryan's voice. Bryan and his friend Mike flirt with trouble. They skip school, forge absence notes from their moms, duck under subway turnstiles to avoid paying fares, dangerously ride on the outside of moving subway trains, and get into a physical fight. Bryan's dad has been incarcerated, and the book touches on food insecurity. But these harder-edged elements are balanced by the loving family that keeps a close watch on Bryan, and by Bryan's thoughtful take on his circumstances as he navigates hard choices.
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What's the story?
Bryan, the narrator of TIGHT, is often taunted for being a mama's boy and "soft." Pa, who's recently returned home after being incarcerated, tries to tell Bryan that it's better to be feared than liked, but Bryan prefers "reading, being quiet, and chilling for forever." When Ma invites another boy, Mike, home for dinner, Bryan and Mike quickly bond over a shared love of comic book heroes, and Bryan at last has a friend. But then Mike starts pressuring Bryan to skip school, lie to Ma, and do other things he's not sure he’s comfortable with. Can Bryan figure out how to have a friend while staying true to what he knows is right?
Is it any good?
The heart of this winning story set in the Brooklyn projects is its sensitive, likable main character who narrates in a lively, authentic voice. Tight is finely calibrated, balancing its depiction of the fast, vibrant life in school and the streets with Bryan’s thoughtful articulation of his experiences and inner life. The characters' circumstances are never sugarcoated. Bryan's embarrassed to ask for credit when sent to buy meager groceries at the corner bodega. Pa's in and out of incarceration. Men and boys posture and threaten and fight. Sometimes Mike's a good friend, though other times he bullies Bryan and others. But throughout, there are characters who shine a light, suggesting peaceful ways of skirting trouble and handling tense circumstances, providing a beacon for readers, as well.
This book's a natural for boys, who'll appreciate its dissection of what it means to be male while they revel in all the superhero lore, and for urban kids of color who'll recognize themselves and their communities. But it's a compelling read for all, a universal middle-school story delivered in bouncy urban slang.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the comic book heroes in Tight. Do you like superhero comics and movies? What do you think Bryan, Mike, and the other boys in the book like about them? What shared interests do you and your friends have that help you bond?
Why do you think the other boys in the story accuse Bryan of being "soft"? Do you ever feel pressure to act differently than you want to? How does Bryan deal with that? What works for you?
Why do you think the author chose to write the book in Bryan’s own voice? Did having him as the narrator help you understand or like the character more? Did you recognize some of the slang he used? Were some words unfamiliar? Could you get their meaning from the context of the story?
- Author: Torrey Maldonado
- Genre: Contemporary Fiction
- Topics: Superheroes, Friendship, Great Boy Role Models, Middle School, Misfits and Underdogs
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books
- Publication date: September 4, 2018
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 10 - 13
- Number of pages: 192
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, Kindle
- Last updated: April 15, 2019
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