On the cusp of turning 13, an African-American youngster discovers a passion for an unusual sport and confronts a major change in his family.
T’Shawn, a pretty good swimmer, discovers at a local pool that he likes diving off the diving board—and that there is a club where he can learn more. It’s very expensive, though. His mother works hard, but there are huge bills left over from his father’s illness before he died. Then his mother announces that his older brother, Lamont, is about to be released from prison and will be living with them. The brothers’ relationship, once close, suffered due to Lamont’s gang involvement, and his return is difficult. Although T’Shawn receives assistance that allows him to join the diving club, it is watching his brother for signs he might be returning to his old life that consumes him—and he even joins a community movement to get Lamont removed from the neighborhood. In this middle-grade debut, Binns depicts many issues facing urban youth, some with more success than others. Readers follow T’Shawn as he witnesses police brutality, copes with a well-meaning teacher, helps a friend with sickle cell disease, supports another friend grieving the loss of her mother to domestic violence, and more. The cast is multicultural, which adds to the story landscape, as do strong depictions of African-American men.
A solid addition with a multifaceted look at the urban experience. (Fiction. 8-12)