by Sharon G. Flake

Ever since his little brother Jason was killed in a drive-by shooting, Mann has had... read more

Ever since his little brother Jason was killed in a drive-by shooting, Mann has had a hard time. Between his own sadness and unsettled feelings and his parents’ grief, his is a house of pain. Life is so treacherous in his urban neighborhood that Mann’s best friend, Kee-Lee, keeps a running body count. One of Mann’s few outlets for his feelings is painting, but his father wants to make a real man out of Mann. Fiercely determined not to lose another son, he irrationally decides that Mann, and Kee-Lee too, will benefit from an old African tribal ritual in which boys were abandoned to find their own ways home. He takes Mann and Kee-Lee camping and leaves them. It is an exhausting, sometimes terrifying five-day journey home. Mann is not a man when he returns, just a very angry adolescent boy who understandably feels abandoned. He and Kee-Lee run away and are soon drawn into a sordid life of alcohol, drugs, and crime. In trying to save his son, it seems Mann’s father has destroyed him. Sharon G. Flake’s sobering novel looks unflinchingly at the spiraling tragedies in an African American family caused by guns and violence. As hard and harrowing as her story is, Flake offers hope as well. Mann is smart and knows he needs to break free from the life in which he is trapped. His art provides the first handhold. But Mann begins to realizes he won’t go much farther without also finding peace, which begins with forgiveness. (Ages 13–16)

© Cooperative Children's Book Center, Univ. of Wisconsin - Madison, 2006

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