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Riot Hardcover – September 22, 2009

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Starred Review. Grade 7 Up—The setting is New York City, July 1863. Lincoln has just called up more troops after the devastation at Gettysburg. Tensions rise and then boil over into riots as Irish immigrants rail against the draft and direct their wrath at the city's African-American population. Fifteen-year-old Claire, daughter of a black father and white mother, finds herself at the center of the vortex. She is forced to grapple with the notion that her race has suddenly become the entirety of her identity while friends and family are pulled into different camps and a mob mentality consumes the city. The author revisits the screenplay format utilized to much acclaim in Monster (HarperCollins, 1999), yet here it serves a wholly different purpose. While the screenplay helped Monster's Steve reveal a creative identity apart from his mug shot, in Riot it gives a sense of the proportion and chaos of the times, as the camera pans across the city jumping from one incident to another, simultaneously tracking numerous characters. Myers crafts a sympathetic cast, which is excellent fodder for conversations about race and class, and the book is also a choice pick for reluctant readers who will relish both format and pacing. Once again, this master storyteller has delivered.—Jill Heritage Maza, Greenwich High School, CT END

About the Author

Walter Dean Myers is the critically acclaimed author of such celebrated novels for youth as the New York Times Best-Selling Monster; the Newbery Honor—winning Somewhere in the Darkness and Scorpions; Shooter, the basis for the 2009 film Case 219; and the Coretta Scott King Award—winning Fallen Angels and Slam.

An avid student of history, Myers collects photographs and documents on African American life up to the 1950s. His collection has been featured in both his own nonfiction and in documentaries on American history. Many pieces relating to the background of the New York City Draft Riots may be found in this volume or online at When not writing or collecting, Myers spends his time cooking, playing the flute, or attending the theater.

You may visit him online at

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 12 and up
  • Grade Level: 7 and up
  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: EgmontUSA (September 22, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9781606840009
  • ISBN-13: 978-1606840009
  • ASIN: 1606840002
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.7 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,120,585 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Walter Dean Myers is a New York Times bestselling and critically acclaimed author who has garnered much respect and admiration for his fiction, nonfiction, and poetry for young people. Winner of the first Michael L. Printz Award, he is considered one of the preeminent writers for children. He lives in Jersey City, New Jersey, with his family.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Yana V. Rodgers on October 11, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Intent to increase the size of the Union Army, in 1963 President Abraham Lincoln signed the first conscription act in U.S. history, authorizing the draft of all able-bodied young men into the Army. With a loophole that allowed wealthier men to avoid being drafted by paying a $300 fee, the conscription act infuriated members of the working class. In New York City, large numbers of men and some women, predominantly Irish, took to the streets and channeled their anger into looting and violence. Their violence targeted not only the upper class, but also African Americans who the Irish resented for stealing scarce jobs through their willingness to work for lower wages. The riots, which resulted in widespread destruction and brutal attacks, required military intervention before ending after four terrifying days.

Caught in the middle of these very real events are a series of fictional characters struggling to come to terms with the charged racial relations. Claire, a biracial fifteen-year-old girl, braves the violence on the streets to help her black father save a group of young orphans from the mobs bent on destroying the New York Colored Orphan Asylum. In the process she joins her best friend Priscilla, who is black, in helping the children and also in trying to find Priscilla's frail old aunt. In taking these risky actions during the height of the violence rather than stay at home, Claire tries to define her racial identity and help the people she loves.

This novel brings to life the 1963 New York Draft Riots for readers who may be less familiar with the nature of the violence and the hostile race relations. The plot highlights the role of economic principles, especially competition for jobs and racial discrimination, in serving as key triggers of the riots. Middle-grade readers raised on texting and instant messaging are likely to appreciate the screenplay format with brief scene directions and fast-paced dialogue.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By L. K. Messner on October 18, 2009
Format: Hardcover
The screenplay format of this historical novel took me a little while to warm up to, but once I got to know the characters, I found this to be a fascinating and compelling story of the New York draft riots during the Civil War. The characters were believable in their language and depictions, and the way characters from different social groups interacted with one another really shed light on the biases and fears of this time period. This will be a great resource for teachers, who should find lots of opportunities for student dramatizations and other activities in the format of this book. The format, with plenty of white space and lots of action, will make it a great pick for reluctant readers, too.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By TeensReadToo on December 4, 2009
Format: Hardcover
RIOT by Walter Dean Myers tells the story of the beginning of the Civil War, and the 1863 insurgency in New York City.

President Lincoln had started a draft to gain more soldiers for the Union Army, but there was a clause in the law that allowed the wealthy to pay a three-hundred dollar fee and hire someone else to go to war in their place. In New York City, tempers exploded into a vicious race riot.

Claire is the daughter of a mixed family. Her mother is Irish and her father is black. She has been secure in her identity, but now everything is different. Black Americans are being murdered and beaten, and even a foundling home is looted and burned as the uprising turns into one of the worst race riots in American history.

The streets and Claire's neighborhood are no longer safe. And then the soldiers that are called back from Gettysburg to settle the dispute are equally brutal.

Claire is considered all black by people she considered friends and they are turning against her for that reason. She begins to question her identity. Great characters and a fast-moving plot kept me glued to the pages.

Myers has written this story in the form of a screenplay in an untraditional book, with an unblinking look at racial relations during that time period. It gave an immediacy to the action that most novel forms would not have been able to achieve. It is a very entertaining story, and I painlessly learned a lesson in American history.

Reviewed by: Grandma Bev
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Rachael Stein VINE VOICE on September 27, 2009
Format: Hardcover
It's the summer of 1863 in New York City. The Civil War is well underway, dividing not only the nation but its people. A federally instituted draft only incites the brewing conflict faster. Angry Irish immigrants flood the streets, looting stories and attacking blacks whom they blame for many of their problems. The army has been brought in to put the riots down, but violence still abounds. Caught in the midst of this, fifteen-year-old Claire is confronted with the difficulty of having both Irish and African American heritage. In a situation with very little middle ground, which side will Claire choose?

Riot is a novel with an interesting topic but a less than thrilling execution. This novel is written in the style of a screenplay, which is unique but a little odd considering I don't believe it's supposed to be one. Because of this strict format which only allows for scene descriptions, character actions, different "camera" angles, and dialogue, I found it very difficult to get into the story. Another negative side effect of this structure is that there is little if any direct characterization, and readers must glean what they can about characters based on mainly events, actions, and dialogue. I personally found it hard to fully understand many of the characters because I didn't know that they were thinking, which the rare soliloquy did little to remedy. If it weren't for this story, I think I might've been more into the story since the Civil War and race relations are fascinating and important parts of American history. For what it's worth, the historical events discussed, particularly the New York City draft riots, were portrayed relatively accurately, but unfortunately, the story was just boring as a whole. Perhaps it's only the screenplay style, but Riot was just not a book for me.

Fans of historical novels just as Ten Cents a Dance by Christine Fletcher and A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly may still enjoy this stylistically untraditional novel.
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