Author: Maldonado, Torrey
Twelve-year-old boys living in a rough part of New York confront questions about what it means to be a friend, a father, and a man.
|Accelerated Reader Information:|
Interest Level: MG+
Reading Level: 3.80
Points: 5.0 Quiz: 136604
|Reading Counts Information:|
Interest Level: 6-8
Reading Level: 3.30
Points: 11.0 Quiz: 50074
Full Text Reviews:
Booklist - 03/15/2010 Dissing is like boxing, Justin thinks—except you fight with words instead of fists. The best disser around is Sean, who is not only mad popular but also Justin’s best friend. They are so tight, in fact, that the other kids call them twins: both are half black and half Puerto Rican, completely obsessed by hip-hop, and love to freestyle rap with each other. But now Justin is worried because something is happening to Sean. His disses are turning vicious, his grades are suffering, and he is retreating behind a wall of silence and secrets. Could it have something to do with the unexplained, out-of-town trips he and his mother are making? Justin is determined to find out. Maldonado’s first novel—set in Brooklyn’s Red Hook Housing Projects, one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in New York—is notable for its viscerally authentic treatment of setting. Though occasionally didactic and a bit programmatic, its voice—Justin’s first-person vernacular—is infectiously readable, and its characters are sympathetically and memorably realized. - Copyright 2010 Booklist.
Bulletin for the Center... - 05/01/2010 Growing up in the Red Hook projects in Brooklyn, New York has its challenges, but Justin’s got his good friends Sean and Kyle, a loving mom, and his rhymes to get him through. Both Justin and Sean are sons of single moms and half Puerto Rican and half black; Sean is also the king of the sixth-grade hill as a result of his dexterity in “dissing” and creating rhymes. Though Justin has always looked up to his friend, when Sean lies and backs out of a weekend sleepover, the boys’ friendship starts to change. As Sean becomes distant and starts fighting with fists instead of words, Justin and Kyle eventually discover that Sean’s father is in jail. This urban tale explores inner-city life for a middle school audience with sympathy and humor, while underscoring the emotional effects of hardship on the characters’ lives. Justin’s dilemma in trying to support a friend who doesn’t want his help is interestingly explored, and the raps that Justin writes, which are included within his prose narration, express his age and perspective and work as effective, beat-driven rhymes. The heavy focus on Sean’s problems renders the story purposive instead of genuinely engaging, though, and the story is driven by issues more than character. Still, watching a good person make bad choices is never easy, and readers will find both insight and hope in Justin’s efforts to help his friend. MH - Copyright 2010 The Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois.
School Library Journal - 06/01/2010 Gr 5–8— Justin and Sean, both 12, live in the Red Hook projects, are half Puerto Rican and half African American, and have absentee fathers. They became friends when Sean stuck up for Justin, but now Sean is straying further from their friendship, avoiding their scheduled sleepovers, lying, and not doing as well in school. He's been getting into more and more fights when he used to advocate dissing instead of fists. Where is Sean going on Saturdays? Why isn't he telling his friends Justin, Kyle, and Vanessa? Justin heads up the squad to find out why, but with more drama than action, and readers may not care. Justin worries, on more than one occasion, that because he's so concerned about Sean people are going to think he's gay. There's also the possibility that Sean's dad is gay—Justin's reasoning is that he sends Sean shiny trinkets from Puerto Rico. He also inaccurately portrays his cousin as gay because he dresses up in women's clothes and wants to be called Vicky. While these fallacies go unaddressed, Maldonado does explore what it means to be a friend, the nature of privacy, and how difficult it is for boys to talk with one another. With so few books out for urban middle school boys of color besides the "Bluford" series (Townsend), this book, with all its flaws, may still be a draw for some readers. The cover, type size, and format, with cool font and a photo at the head of each chapter, will attract reluctant readers, but the content may not sustain them.—Amy Cheney, Alameda County Library, Oakland, CA - Copyright 2010 Publishers Weekly, Library Journal and/or School Library Journal used with permission.
School Library Journal - 02/01/2017 Gr 5–8—Friends Justin and Sean, both 12, live in the Red Hook projects in Brooklyn, are Puerto Rican and African American, and have absentee fathers. Sean is straying further from their friendship, avoiding their scheduled sleepovers, lying, and not doing as well in school. He's been getting into more and more fights when he used to advocate dissing instead of fists. Where is Sean going on Saturdays? Maldonado explores issues of manhood, friendship, and family in this heartfelt, humorous, and poignant urban tale. - Copyright 2017 Publishers Weekly, Library Journal and/or School Library Journal used with permission.