Tuesday, May 26, 2009

If I Grow Up by Todd Strasser

DeShawn is alive....that's a good thing. He lives with his sister Nia and his Gramma in the projects. At night, ducking for cover while bullets fly isn't anything new. Seeing someone shot and dead is something that happens regularly. Knowing who's in charge is common knowledge.

DeShawn, Lightbulb, and Terrell live in the Frederick Douglass Projects, home of the Douglas Disciples. Across the neighborhood are their rivals, the Gentry Gangstas. At twelve years old, Deshawn and his buddies have seen people come and go through violence and drugs. And they also see the payback if you're good at what you do.

Slowly but surely, the devolving of these twelve year olds take place. By the time the boys are fifteen, life has become different than it was three years ago. Now it's about drugs, becoming fathers, getting jumped into the gang...owning your first gun. It's about putting food on your table, taking care of your family, protecting your gang and your turf. And at age eighteen, life for DeShawn, Lightbulb, and Terrell are dramatically changed - through experience, coincidence and choices made.

Wow....wowowowowowow...Strasser packs a PUNCH in this book. If you don't have firsthand knowledge of what the projects are, welcome to this experience. Strasser not only takes you there physically, but emotionally as well. The reader sees firsthand what kids face living in places like these, where the norm is death and the exception is a rap start or a basketball player. Year by year, you are drawn into the lives of these kids and during these times you'll find yourself caught by surprise. Personally, I am safe, protected, cushioned.... but there are those who aren't...

Strasser is a master of prefaces and afterwords as well as statistical data. Look at his past books, and this one is another exemplary work of research and fiction combined. Gritty realism permeates from beginning to end, and the reader is held spellbound till the end, hoping the fate of DeShawn correlates with the hopes the reader makes. A must-have for all YA collections.

1 comment:

Summer said...

Thanks for the review. I'll have to check it out.