From School Library Journal
Grade 6–9—Terence, Gecko, and Arjay made serious mistakes and wound up doing time in juvenile-detention facilities. Empathetic adult Douglas Healy, a former juvenile offender himself, has secured a grant to operate an experimental halfway house in New York City designed to provide second chances to boys deemed as deserving. The teens accept his offer to become his first reformees, willing to trade their bleak incarceration for a small taste of freedom, even though the bargain entails maintaining academic excellence, therapy, and community service. Though Gecko and Arjay enter into the deal in good faith, Terence seems bound for recidivism. Gecko and Arjay attempt to intercept him one night as he tries to use the fire escape as a means of reconnecting with his newfound, gang-related associates. A scuffle ensues and, when Healy intervenes, he falls to the ground, unconscious but still alive. The boys "borrow" a vehicle and drop him off at a local hospital where he awakens with retrograde amnesia. The teens then face the seemingly impossible task of keeping up appearances while also working behind the scenes at the hospital to ensure that Mr. Healy eventually regains his memory and returns to his post as their overseer. This novel is signature Korman; it is a celebration of good, youthful intentions and a wholesome and fun treatment of what might otherwise be prohibitively gritty issues. As such, it's a great choice as a middle school read-aloud.—Jeffrey Hastings, Highlander Way Middle School, Howell, MI
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*Starred Review* What are the odds a teenage gangbanger, a 15-year-old murderer, and a 14-year-old who crashed a stolen car can keep it together when the saintly social worker who has given them a second chance at redemption ends up comatose in the hospital? Terence, Arjay, and Gecko become unlikely co-conspirators at keeping Doug Healy’s absence hidden from teachers, their psychologist, and especially from their nasty case worker. Arjay and Gecko, determined not to do anything that will land them back in jail, become model students and strong-arm Terence into extremely reluctant compliance. It seems to be working until Doug awakens with amnesia, Terence annoys a gang leader, and a high-ranking cop tells Gecko to stop seeing the daughter of a wealthy businessman. Korman keeps lots of balls in the air as he handles each boy’s distinct voice and character—as well as the increasingly absurd situation—with humor and flashes of sadness. His use of present tense is occasionally jarring, but it effectively heightens the tension and the sense that these kids are living minute to minute, where one false step may haunt them forever. Readers will love the feel-good, almost too-good-to-be-true ending, so be prepared for high demand. Grades 7-10. --Chris Sherman