In a work subtitled ""Young Former Gang Members Tell Their Stories,"" Atkin offers readers what for most of them will be a rare and realistic glimpse of life in a street gang, through a series of searingly honest interviews. The reasons the participants join a gang vary: substitutes for splintered families, mutual protection, shared ethnicity. The casual discussion of street violence chills; one young woman shrugs off drive-by shootings as a way for dealing with anger, and the numerous mentions of gang-related suicides, murders, and rapes become nearly unbearable. In common are the speakers' confessions of feeling dead themselves, numb from all the chaos surrounding them. The good news is that these same young people now feel alive, healthy, and in control of their lives. The second half of the book presents interviews with ex-gang members and social workers who have established programs to educate, nurture, and train young people who want to change their lives. Black-and-white photographs bring another level of authenticity to their plight; a glossary of slang and technical terms proves handy as well. Alex Kotlowitz provides a foreword (not seen).