In after-school detention for the first time, high-achiever Robeson meets and bonds with a fellow eighth-grader, tough Pacino, who hides his good grades and laughs at Robeson’s geeky ways. They both hate their gangster classmate, Tariq, who threatens them, and tension mounts as they begin to wonder if Tariq has a gun. Weaving together the very different lives of three African American kids at school and home in their Kansas town, this fast-paced novel will grab readers with its anger, humor, and tenderness. Pacino has never seen his dad, and with his brother in prison, he cares for his little sisters while his mom works two jobs. In total contrast, Robeson lives in a huge, fancy house, while Tariq, shuttled between group homes, has almost nothing. Despite the many confrontations, there is no obscenity; in fact, Robeson is passionately against blacks using the n-word. The messages are occasionally heavy, and Pacino speaks for the reader when he tells Robeson to quit quoting his perfect dad. Still, even reluctant readers will be swept up in this contemporary teen drama. Grades 5-8. --Hazel Rochman
About the Author
Derrick Barnes is the author of several acclaimed books, including the Ruby and the Booker Boys series: BRAND-NEW SCHOOL, BRAVE NEW RUBY; TRIVIA QUEEN, THIRD GRADE SUPREME; THE SLUMBER PARTY PAYBACK; and RUBY FLIPS FOR ATTENTION, published by Scholastic. Barnes’s YA novel THE MAKING OF DR. TRUELOVE was an ALA Quick Picks selection, and has been hailed by the New York Public Library as one of the 100 Best Books for the Teen Age. Derrick and his wife, Tinka, reside in Kansas City, MO, with their three sons.