Ages 12 +
Javier's life is going nowhere fast. He hates seventh grade, his pop is locked up, and his mom can't even afford to buy him shoes. At least she's sober . . . for now.
Javier and his friends are in a gang, but he doesn't even know why he joined the Playaz in the first place, since hanging with them is like asking for trouble from the cops. When he is assigned to work with the special education class, Javier thinks that the one thing he had going for him in middle school-his social life-is over. Little by little, though, Javier realizes that he actually enjoys reading to Dontae, a severely disabled boy his age. When everything else around him is falling apart, working with Dontae becomes the one thing worth fighting for.
This is a really good story, straight forward and hard-hitting. Fighting for Dontae does not soften the harsh realities of living in a lower income gang-infested neighborhoods. It's all here: the drugs, the violence, the absent fathers, the frequent hopelessness. Javier has one thing that sets him apart: empathy. He discovers that there is more to life than wearing the latest shoes or looking cool to his friends through volunteering with the special ed students at his school. Castan's unembellished story is a fast read but is one that leaves a long-lasting impression.
Substance Abuse: High