Booth offers a glimpse of gritty inner-city life for a middle-grade audience through the eyes of 11-year-old Jarrett.
Jarrett’s failing summer school, making an ignominious repetition of sixth grade seem all too likely. His mother, fine at nurturing a long series of foster babies, is surprisingly oblivious to his floundering attempts to manage the schoolwork and his resulting discouragement, an emotional distance she also maintains with strong male role model Terrence, her boyfriend. Then she takes in Kevon, mature beyond his 12 years, and his toddler sister, Treasure. Jarrett resentfully shares his room and life with Kevon, but he also spies on him, discovering much about his foster brother’s mysterious, unhappy past. At the same time, he and best friend Ennis are cleverly crafting a horror film trailer at the community center that plays a major, positive role in local kids’ lives. Ennis is exploring his growing realization that “I don’t like girls, and I don’t think I ever will,” a revelation Jarrett sensitively accepts, in sharp, not fully explained contrast to his increasingly bitter, self-indulgent conflict with Kevon. The many plotlines keep the narrative brisk, enhanced by believable dialogue and nicely rounded characters, even though their motivations don’t always feel fully justified.
Jarrett’s frank view of the inner-city perils he faces is optimistically balanced by the strengths offered by family, friends and his community. (Fiction. 8-12)