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What They Found: Love on 145th Street Hardcover – September 11, 2007
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*Starred Review* A neighborhood beauty salon is the setting for lots of the fast, funny talk in these stirring contemporary stories, which nonetheless give a grim view of being "poor and black," whether on the streets of Harlem, in prison, or on the war front in Afghanistan. Rooted in the harsh realism of widespread unemployment, drug use, and trouble ("more brothers going to jail than going to college"), the teens' tender connections are heartbreaking. A single teenage mother loves her baby, and so does the young dad, who wishes he could support them. Some teens are college-bound, but a boy with a high-school diploma can't find work: will he get a gun? Tough gangster Burn is gentle with handicapped kids, but he cannot connect with the girl he loves. In "Mama," a kid who cares for her mom, a recovering addict, and tries to get her brother to preschool turns out to be only eight years old. There are lighter moments, too; in "Poets and Plumbers," Noee feels uncomfortable in Kyle's apartment until she shows him how to unplug his kitchen drain. Each story stands alone, but some are connected, and readers familiar with Myers' 145th Street (2000) will welcome back some characters. Hope lies in what the book title says, finding love and community. Rochman, Hazel
Starred Review, Booklist, June 1 & 15, 2007:
"Hope lies in what the book title says, finding love and community."
Starred Review, Kirkus Reviews, July 15, 2007:
"Gently told, beautifully modulated, these stories go straight to the heart."
Starred Review, School Library Journal, August 2007:
"Rich in both character and setting, these urban tales combine heartbreak and hope into a vivid tableau of a community. A priority purchase for all libraries, especially those in urban settings."
—Chris Shoemaker, New York Public Library
Starred Review, The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, November 2007:
"Grippingly honest ... an extensive and multifaceted look at the culturally nuanced dynamics of finding, holding, and letting go of love."
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Top Customer Reviews
Letha wanted to know what it was like to have sex, then immediately regretted the choice she had made. Her first time wasn't about love, but she had much love for the child that was conceived. Being poor didn't stop her from taking care of Amari. She did the best she could with what little she had because her son meant the world to her. But although she loved Amari more than anything, she thought of herself as 'nothing special'. It took, Billy Carroll, another teen in the neighborhood, to help her to see her good qualities.
I found all of the stories to be well-written. While dealing with serious subjects, there is still a lot of humor in this book. Although Mr. Myers often writes for the young adult audience, this collection would be appropriate for all ages. I haven't read the earlier collection, my prior experience with Mr. Myers' fiction being limited to Sunrise over Fallujah, mentioned here. The war in Iraq, written about so eloquently by Mr. Myers in Sunrise, reappears in the 15th story in this collection, "Combat Zone," which is about soldier Curtis Mason and the friendships and love he finds in Iraq.
The central theme of WHAT THEY FOUND is love. Each story shares a relationship - romantic love, sibling love, parental love, and more. The stories are flavored with Harlem life as only Myers is able to capture.
There's the frustration of loving a brother who is a constant disappointment to the family. Leading a life of drugs and crime takes its toll on love.
There are relationships in the making and relationships beginning to crumble. Myers describes the tough love of women raising babies alone or trying everything to hang onto the father of a child. Some relationships beat the odds stacked against them, while others continue to exist only in dreams.
The final chapter attempts to explain the frightening need for love while facing the world beyond our own front yard. A young soldier from the Harlem neighborhood struggles to survive physically and emotionally in the middle of the violence in Afghanistan. Love offers an oasis from the horrors of war.
Each chapter shares a story and many of them overlap and intertwine as readers are reacquainted with the neighborhood of 145th Street. WHAT THEY FOUND is a welcome companion to the first collection or stands very strongly on its own.
Reviewed by: Sally Kruger, aka "Readingjunky"