From School Library Journal
Grade 8 Up—Ten portraits interspersed with poetry draw readers into the lives of a variety of African-American teens. In "Getting Even," a boy copes with his grandfather's death and the desire to find who killed him. Jeffery, 16, gets thrown out of his Auntie's house with nowhere to go. Eric goes against his dad's command to stay home with his siblings and instead finds a girl, some fun, and some trouble; Justin writes in his journal about death, suicide, and sexual abuse. La'Ron is too afraid to tell his father he is HIV positive, so he writes him a letter, and his father writes back. The concluding story, "Pretty Mothers Are a Problem," is a chilling portrait of 15-year-old Jeffrey, seduced by a neighbor, and the devastation faced by her daughter. These complex and thought-provoking stories won't disappoint.—Amy Cheney, Alameda County Library, Oakland, CA
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In a lively companion to Flake’s Who Am I without Him? (2007), teen boys speak in stories and free-verse poems about love, fear, sex, fun, anger, sorrow, and growing up black today. Some of the strongest pieces are about love between sons and father figures, including a stepdad, grandfather, and father-in-law. Homelessness is sometimes a threat, as is the fear of dying young, amid all the violence in the ‘ hood, and one speaker talks about the responsibility he feels to help younger kids get over “getting even.” In contrast, a suburban kid talks about class issues. Occasionally, the entries feel therapeutic, with messages about HIV/AIDS and suicide prevention (hotlines and Web sites are appended). Best of all is the candor about hardship and the celebration of the diversity and dynamics in the characters’ communities.The immediate voices, with no invective or overt sex, are well-suited for readers’ theater and for sharing everywhere. Grades 7-10. --Hazel Rochman