From the first taut page, it’s clear that this isn’t going to be a happy story.
Calvin, a senior and track star at a Washington, D.C., public high school, has gone to confront Norris, a thug who’s trying to extort protection money from Calvin’s mom. Confident that he can outrun Norris, he hasn’t given the potential outcome enough thought, a mistake Calvin often makes. He’s only saved from violence when his best friend, Deej, comes to his rescue. The deal Deej makes with Norris will come back to haunt Calvin: Norris now “owns” the runner’s knees. The threat is implicit—if Calvin doesn’t cooperate, Norris will destroy his running career. Calvin is aided by his strongly supportive mother and his longtime employer, Albert, both of whom provide powerful, much-needed guidance. He also gains strength from his quietly depicted developing relationship with Junior, a fine student from a supportive family. But as Deej makes increasingly bad decisions, it seems likely Calvin, ever loyal and too often a pawn, will be dragged down with him. The deliberately ambiguous conclusion will leave engrossed readers weighing Calvin’s options and making their own hard decisions for him. Dialogue, situations, relationships and issues all ring pitch perfectly but ever so discouragingly true.
This brief debut packs a serious punch and will leave readers stunned with Calvin’s grim options. (Fiction. 12 & up)