From School Library Journal
Grade 6-10-Eighth-grade, Taylor, a troubled youth, is sent to spend the summer with his Aunt Etta and Uncle Earl in rural Texas. His mother is worried about the bad influence of his friends, but she doesn't know the worst of it. Taylor is haunted by a terrible secret: he knows that his gang is responsible for the near death of a classmate. They had dared DeWayne Lockhart to sniff paint remover, and he remains in a coma. Filled with remorse and resentment, Taylor is determined to hate his summer exile. His aunt and uncle refuse to cater to him, but prove to be strong and loving guardians. However, it is his friendship with poor and illiterate Jesse Lee Sinkler that produces a profound change in Taylor and helps him to take responsibility for what happened to DeWayne. Taylor is a very believable character as he struggles with the problems of peer pressure and parental expectations and limits. His anger, confusion, and rebelliousness will strike a responsive chord in other young people. Although characters such as Jesse, Uncle Earl, and Aunt Etta seem somewhat idealized, they are still appealing. The plot has enough layers to keep it interesting and the rural, tucked-away atmosphere of Butler's Hope, TX, certainly provides a startling contrast to Taylor's life as a member of the "Northside Lynch Mob" in Houston. A good read for those who enjoy a contemporary story with an upbeat ending.Carol Schene, Taunton Public Schools, MA
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.
--This text refers to the
Gr. 6^-10. The beginning is a corker: "I killed DeWayne Lockhart and this is how it happened." The rest of the story, however, is far less dramatic and follows a rather familiar path. Even though his buddies in the Northside Lynch Mob are all off doing their own thing, Tyler Ryan deeply resents having been sent away from his gang to spend the summer with elderly relatives he doesn't know. He pours out his feelings in letters to his mother (with whom he's very angry) and to his friends, biding his time till he can escape and coping as best he can with the horrible secret about eager, misguided DeWayne, who wanted to join the gang. Then poor, proud, backwoods teenager Jesse Lee enters the picture, and Tyler suddenly discovers he's interested in someone besides himself. The novel lacks focus, and Tyler's character is surprisingly bland, given the background. But Garland makes up for it somewhat with an easy style, some rich descriptions, and a solid moral core. Stephanie Zvirin