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Young Junius Hardcover – November 9, 2010
After his older brother is gunned down, six-foot-three-inch, 14-year-old Junius sets his heart on vengeance and makes for the Rindge Towers, a three-building slum uneasily shared by two rival pushers. What starts as a narrative limited to the point-of-view of the remorseless teen widens—and widens and widens—until it encompasses a huge cast of characters, including kids, cops, and a legion of small-time thugs. Harwood’s cutaway view of a single bloody day in a housing project is an impressive feat, undercut only by the sameness of some of the warriors, who come fast and furious with names like Big Pickup, Black Jesus, and Seven Heaven. Despite these monikers, there’s nothing cartoonish about the story, which powers forward with a blunt and violent vulgarity: “He pushed the door open and headed out to see what the fuck.” There is a mystery here—who really pulled the trigger on Junius’ bro?—but the point is clearly the bad-versus-worse decisions brought on by bloodlust. Given the characters’ brutality, Harwood’s empathy runs deeply indeed. --Daniel Kraus
Top customer reviews
Set in 1987 in three public housing high rise buildings called the towers, the motivations, relationships and loyalties of the drug dealers that run the towers are detailed. When you read Young Junius, stories in the news about the deaths of young men fueled by drug use are no less sad, but you are in a world where violence is inevitable.
It would have been easy for the author to people his book with stereotypes, but he resisted temptation and created characters both believable and interesting. Junius himself has more facets than a drug dealer's diamond pinky ring. His ready embrace of violence is tempered by a reflective conscience and recognition of the severe limits of the world he inhabits. He's growing up to be a badass, but is more resigned to his fate than celebrating it.
The supporting cast of distinctive characters includes Junius's still-growing-up sidekick Elf and the lost soul Clarence, a crack addict who uses the drug to fuel a blood-drenched career as a dealer/enforcer in the projects. Harwood takes pains to give nearly every character a solid backstory, which makes even the most evil of the drug kingpins characters worth an investment of the reader's time.
Young Junius is a solid novel that rises above its genre.
This story explains where Junius came from. Not such a bad guy, but events conspire to force him into the person he will become.