So, as I started reading this one, I didn’t love it initially. I’m a language person, but the language isn’t particularly beautiful. There isn’t a line in this book that rocked me or made me need it as a tattoo. I struggled with the male protagonist because of how he objectifies his female counterparts. In the first 10 pages, it was *almost* enough to turn me off completely.
I gave it a chance.
- The male’s thoughts are pretty authentic. Honestly, it’s what I hear come out of the mouths of high school students in the hallway. I wish it weren’t the case, but here I am in 2019 admitting that people actually talk about others that way. If nothing else, it is an entry point for a conversation about how we talk about others. As I read the book, I tracked the character’s evolution not only in his ideas about his identity, but also in the way he related to his girlfriends and spoke/ thought about them. It was refreshing to see him grow in that way.
- The language isn’t beautiful, but it isn’t bad. There is a LOT that a teacher could use in the classroom from this book.
- The book is code-switching heaven. For any teacher wanting to focus on dialogue an dialect, this would be a great read. The narration is primarily in standard English, but the dialogue ranges from “teen speak” to various levels of cultural interaction depending on the social context of the scene.
- The book is a mix of typical narrative writing/ script-style dialogue/ and of course, the letters to MLK Jr. Introducing students to books written in mix-ed genres is always fun, and a great way to cover multiple genres with one text.
- The situations are realistic. The bring up questions that society and teenagers are asking. What does racism look like today? Who’s fault is it? What is “my” identity? Why does it matter? How does poverty affect my education? Am I a traitor if I…? If I am successful, am I betraying my family, my culture, etc.? There’s a lot of substance here. And it’s worth exploring.
Once I decided to give it a chance, I couldn’t put it down. There were points that it seemed like the protagonist just couldn’t “catch a break”. One might say that is for dramatic effect or to add to the plot, but I know for a fact that life really breaks that way for some people. Some of those people are my own students who just never seem to be able to break the cycle that was started long before they were born.
Here’s to them, and the strength to change what we can.
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