From School Library Journal
Grade 8 Up–Even though random shootings have become increasingly common in his neighborhood, Mann is horrified when his little brother is gunned down while playing on his own front porch. Two years later, the 13-year-old and his parents are still struggling with their grief. His father believes that if he had been less loving and protective, Jason might have been tougher and capable of avoiding the shot. Mann and his friend Kee-lee keep track of the shooting deaths around them, certain that their own time may come and make them nothing more than numbers on their list. Influenced by ancient African coming-of-age rituals in which young boys are sent into the wilderness to attempt to survive, Mann's father takes him and Kee-lee camping and abandons them far from home. For two urban teens with little food or money, this is a dangerous, frightening experience that leads to crime and violence. After the boys make their treacherous way back home, Mann's father turns him out to live on the streets, determined he will not lose another son because he is too soft. This disturbing, thought-provoking novel will leave readers with plenty of food for thought and should fuel lively discussions.–Ginny Gustin, Sonoma County Library System, Santa Rosa, CA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Gr. 9-12. Following the death of his six-year-old son in a ghetto shooting, Mann's father made every effort to toughen up his surviving son: "If he's gonna be a man, he's gonna have to learn to chew nails and hold a gun in his hand." Approximating an African coming-of-age ritual, he abandons Mann and his friend Kee-Lee at a distant campsite. The experiment ends in tragedy when Kee-Lee falls victim to more senseless violence. Will Mann respond by spiralling into a street thug's nihilistic existence, or will he become someone who "takes trouble and makes something good out of it"? Flake's plot is relentlessly and purposefully grim as well as somewhat jumbled, with disparate story strands that include Mann's developing talents as an artist and his efforts to heal sick, abandoned horses at a city stable. But the vivid, raw voices that earned Flake a Coretta Scott King Award for The Skin I'm In
(1998) and two Coretta Scott King Honors are in abundant evidence--and the complicated relationship between Mann and his father represents a welcome investigation of African American manhood, a theme that cries out for broader YA treatment. Jennifer MattsonCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved