Author: Mary Lou Hall
Publisher: Viking Books for Young Readers
Pub. Date: 6 September, 2016
Genre: YA, fiction
From the publisher:
“Fourteen-year-old Clarence Feather knows no world beyond desolate Mayfair Heights. Three years ago, his mother was killed before his eyes by a stray bullet. When his father becomes unable to keep the family afloat, Clarence is manipulated into running drugs. But he longs to be a good person, in spite of the seemingly impossible odds.”
This is, indeed, what the book is about. Clarence is fighting to balance the dark reality of his life with the lightness of hope for a different life. The first time I read it through, I was awash in the why of it, also left with a distinct sadness, so I read it again to see how I ended up with those feelings after a novel that is supposed to be triumphant. A novel that I am supposed to recommend to my young impressionable readers.
While I sympathized with Clarence (Itty’s) impossible situation, I found it really hard to accept the message that ‘this is just how it is down here,’ and kept waiting for some kind of transcendence to happen. Every good was tempered with bad, and by the time the ending rolled in with its half-hearted ‘maybe things will get better now’ message, I didn’t believe it. Clarence and his father both were just too prone to justifying the bad as part of the game, and neither Clarence nor Mona was safe. Reading kids are not stupid, they know when their emotions are being manipulated. (Think about those ads for the starving children with their sad round bellies and flies in their big innocent eyes.)
Although it is well-written, has many points to talk and think about, and will resonate with some, it is only the beginning of a conversation. I feel that the tunnel vision of the work makes it more than a little exploitative and therefore deserves less praise. 3/5
I received a copy from the publisher through FirstToRead in exchange for an honest review.