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If I Grow Up Hardcover – February 24, 2009


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Product Details

  • Age Range: 12 and up
  • Grade Level: 7 and up
  • Lexile Measure: 650L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers; 1 edition (February 24, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416925236
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416925231
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.9 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #637,048 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In this superficially compelling but heavy-handed book about gang culture, narrator DeShawn faces tough circumstances and limited choices. Readers first meet DeShawn as a smart 12-year-old with potential; four years later, he is a gang member in charge of operations at his housing project. While the story has a Law and Order–type drama, it also runs on cliché: the determined grandmother, the star-crossed love, the jealous second-in-command, the concerned cop and the teacher who reaches out knowing his offer will be rejected. The plot serves the author's agenda, which Strasser (Give a Boy a Gun) puts in plain sight: he opens each section with a statistic plus a rap lyric, and his foreword and last chapter argue that significant numbers of American citizens—mostly minorities, and many living in impoverished inner-city areas—are doomed to fail. Given that Strasser's foreword explicitly defines himself and his audience as more privileged than his characters (we forget that millions of inner-city denizens are just like us), it's hard to escape the feeling that his story is more well-meaning than authentic. Ages 12–up. (Feb.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From School Library Journal

Grade 8–10—For DeShawn, joining a gang seems like a terrible decision—why would he want to work for a pittance running drugs when the inevitable consequences are jail or an early death? A bright boy, he does well in school and tries his best to obey the grandmother who has raised him since his mother's accidental death in gang crossfire. But as DeShawn enters adolescence, the lure of the streets becomes a stronger force, pulling him away from his seemingly meaningless academics and toward the glamour of life in the Douglass Disciples, his housing project's premier gang. He knows he's risking his life, but DeShawn sees no other hope for supporting his pregnant girlfriend and growing family without the fast money life as a Disciple can provide. But when he finds himself entangled in a series of political struggles and murderous schemes within his own crew, the wisdom of his choice becomes less clear, and the danger of imminent death or life in prison looms closer than ever. Strasser's didactic purpose for this novel couldn't be more obvious; the events that it chronicles are unremittingly grim to the point of unbelievability, and characters sometimes seem to exist only to demonstrate the miscellaneous horrors of housing-project life. Tight plotting and a crisp style will satisfy readers looking for nonstop action and plenty of urban drama. However, for a more subtle take on inner-city poverty from a teen's perspective that shows more depth and compassion, try Coe Booth's Tyrell (Scholastic, 2006).—Meredith Robbins, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis High School, New York City
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

More About the Author

Todd Strasser is the author of more than 120 novels for YA and middle graders. His YA novels including such award winners as No Place, If I Grow Up, Boot Camp, Can't Get There From Here, Give a Boy a Gun, Wish You Were Dead, Blood on My Hands, Kill You Last, the Impact Zone series, and the DriftX series.

His books for middle graders include Abe Lincoln for Class President, Byte Barkley: Secret agent K-9, Don't Get Caught in the Girls' Locker Room, Grizzly Attack, and the best-selling 17-book Help! I'm Trapped in ... series.

His most recent novel for grades 5 and up, FALLOUT, received a stellar review in the New York Times and was named a must-read middle school book by School Library Journal.

Todd lives in a suburb of New York and speaks frequently at schools.

Customer Reviews

They were wishing the book could be turned into a movie.
MsDe2U
If I Grow Up is one of those books that many people will not be able to relate to at all because their lifestyle is so different but will be sucked into regardless.
Harmony Book Reviews
I bought this book for some of my students who wanted to read it.
Payton

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Harmony Book Reviews on September 4, 2009
Format: Hardcover
If I Grow Up is one of those books that many people will not be able to relate to at all because their lifestyle is so different but will be sucked into regardless.

I picked If I Grow Up randomly, just because I was bored and wanted something different, but it turned out to be one of the most eye-opening books I'd read in a while. Life in the projects, gangs, and everything that accompanies gangs, is something completely foreign to me. Sure, there's violence around here but nothing on that level. If I Grow Up really gives an insight on what goes on, the people behind the gang, and the feelings that go with it. I'd never really thought of the people who live that lifestyle as "good" guys but after reading this, quite a few of my opinions changed.

The characters, like the whole book in general, were completely foreign to me in most ways. The way girls were treated and acted, the way they treated relationships, everything was just the complete opposite of what I was used to. But, they also felt the same emotions everyone does - lust, crushes, fear, sadness - all of those things were there and added a whole new dimension to the characters.

Overall, I highly recommend this . It flies by and you will barely recognize that you're reading - it's that good. The ending will shock you too.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By TeensReadToo on March 4, 2009
Format: Hardcover
When you live in the projects and are faced daily with gang violence, drive-by shootings, teen pregnancy, and poverty, the chance of growing up and living a decent life as an adult dwindle with each passing year. Todd Strasser takes readers into the life of one teen living in just such a world.

DeShawn lives with his grandmother and his sister. His grandmother cleans for a living, but even though she's not old by the suburbs' standards, she is old and tired here in the inner city. DeShawn goes to school and wants to stay on the straight and narrow, but everyone he knows is involved in gangs or drugs, so the pressure is on.

IF I GROW UP starts when DeShawn is twelve years old. As each year passes he finds it more and more difficult to keep focused on the things he needs to do to find success in the world most of us know. The pull of the gang lifestyle, with its promise of money and power, are tempting. Being part of the Disciples would guarantee there would be food on the table, diapers for his sister's twin babies, and money for the rent every month.

When it becomes evident who was responsible for the death of a young child, DeShawn struggles with a feeling of needing to even the score. That's part of the curse of gang life. Once there is one killing, everyone wants to seek revenge, which creates an out of control spiraling effect with one drive-by shooting after another.

Is DeShawn the one to beat the odds and stay in control of his life by staying in school, getting a decent job, and making his family proud, or will he end up like the rest of the young boys and men of the projects?

Todd Strasser examines the tragedy of life in the inner city. The statistics reveal odds stacked against the youth of our cities.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Meaghan on November 25, 2012
Format: Hardcover
I loved almost all of this book. Strasser paints a very realistic picture of a good boy, a smart kid with potential, sliding down into perdition largely because of forces beyond his control. DeShawn tries different ways to get out of what seems like destiny for every black man in the projects, but his route is always blocked. A teacher advises him to apply to go to a magnet high school, but because of the bad education he got earlier, DeShawn's aptitude test scores aren't high enough. He tries to stay away from the local gangs as much as possible, but living among them, he can't help but get caught in their mess. His father is never mentioned, his mother is dead, his grandmother is on welfare and his sister has two kids by the time she's sixteen. And so, bit by bit, DeShawn disappears into the shadow of gangs and drugs and violence.

I was impressed that Strasser was able to keep profanity and graphic violence out of the story, given its setting. This book would be suitable for 12- to 13-year-olds and up.

I would have given it four stars, maybe five, but I hated the ending of the story. The utter preachiness of the last chapter, where DeShawn quotes statistics and speculates about the future of the ghetto youth. This is Todd Strasser speaking, not DeShawn, and it left a bad taste in my mouth. It's a pity, because the rest of the book was so good.
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Format: Hardcover
"It seemed like everything in Washington Carver was held together with tape. The cracks in the grimy windows, the pages in the tattered old textbooks, the pull-down maps in the front of the room -- all held in place with yellowed, peeling tape."

I am a life-long fan of learning history. It helps me understand why and how America is how it is. This doesn't mean that studying history doesn't often lead me to feelings of anger and despair. What might it take today to repair things for those who have gotten stuck -- for generations -- with the short end of the American Dream?

Guaranteed that in the coming years, some fortunate, twenty-first century middle school kids (undoubtedly in a well-financed, suburban school district somewhere) are going to end up with a teacher who turns them onto IF I GROW UP and leads them through an extended study of American history focused on why such dangerous and dysfunctional neighborhoods/ communities/ housing projects have come to exist in the so-called greatest and wealthiest nation in the history of the world, and why such neighborhoods have not only perpetuated but have continued to grow as those on the outside say, "No new taxes, you're on your own."

"Wham! Jules swung his arm out hard, catching Terrell square in the face. My friend fell back, and the pistol clattered to the ground about five feet away. Jules rose to his hands and knees. He looked at the gun; then he looked at me. "I knew what he was thinking.
"He lunged for the gun. For a kid who'd just been shot in the foot, he moved pretty fast.
"But I was faster, scooping up the gun and aiming it down at him. This was the first time I'd ever held a real gun, and even though it was small, it weighed more than I'd expected.
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