A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
This book can help teen readers confront a series of questions, such as what they would do if they were in Tyrell's situation? Is there an easy moral solution? Families interested in broader discussions may want to examine our "Families Can Talk About" section.
This award-winning book provides an honest look into the harsh realities that many kids face growing up poor in the inner city.
Positive Role Models
The main character, though skipping school and engaging in a variety of petty crimes to survive, draws the line at drug dealing, despite pressure from his mother. He comes up with a solution that he hopes will help his family escape their situation (and keep his younger brother out of foster care).
Violence & Scariness
Some fights, spousal abuse, discussions of why women "sometimes need to be beaten."
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
None described, but young teens (13 and up) have sex, oral sex, masturbate, make out, strip, do lap dances. Adults leer at teens and have sexual encounters with them. Prostitution and pimping.
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Use of four-letter words and other swearing (including the n-word, used colloquially) is near constant.
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Products & Purchases
Several fast food restaurants mentioned repeatedly, electronics brands, video game consoles.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Characters, including teens, smoke tobacco and marijuana, drink and get drunk; references to harder drugs. This behavior is not glamorized, but it is prevalent in the world Tyrell inhabits. A parent even encourages her son to sell drugs (he refuses).
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this book about inner-city life is a better fit for older teens. Tyrell does his best to help his family and keep his younger brother out of foster care, but his story is full of gritty details. Indeed, Tyrell is loaded with sex, language, and drugs, all of which are engaged in by the main character, who is 15. Swearing (including the "N" word, used colloquially) is frequent, as are sexual encounters between teens and sometimes between teens and adults. Most of the characters, including the main character and his mother, use marijuana, tobacco, and alcohol, and some secondary characters use and sell harder drugs; adults (including parents) give alcohol and marijuana to minors.
Is It Any Good?
This powerful and gritty first novel by Coe Booth, a former crisis-center worker from the Bronx, clearly and grippingly portrays the reality of millennial inner-city life. It addresses the hard and limited choices, the despair, the waste of human potential, but also the relentless and determined efforts of some to take even one small step on the road out. Despite its difficult content it should have a place in any high school or college class on modern social problems.
Everything rings true here -- events, characters, attitudes, even the use of dialect. Booth never makes an awkward slip, and Tyrell's voice resonates in the reader's head like that of a real person. Even the ending remains utterly true and faithful to the situation and characters. This is a very auspicious debut.
Did we miss something on diversity?
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.