No, Tim definitely doesn’t have a handle on it.
Although he’s 17, Tim will be in sophomore English again next year if he can’t pass his proficiency exam. Readers first meet the black teen with his sneaker stuck deep in fresh blacktop in a Newark park because the warning sign looks like “Danger: hot as halt” to him. There, he is easy pickings for a bully on the way to school; a mutually humiliating confrontation with a well-meaning teacher ends the day, the last one before summer. Despite trips to the gym that build his muscles and to the library that build his reading confidence, he spirals downward, unable to escape the feelings of powerlessness engendered by circumstance: learning disability, alcoholic father, distracted mother, academically successful younger sister, gangbangers all around. In his debut as a novelist, musician Mixon alternates his third-person narration among multiple characters, giving readers glancing views into the complexities of Tim’s world. Although the hostility of the white world surrounding it is acknowledged, the focus is on the personalities, almost all black, within it. Dialogue is almost physical, spit and food flying with the raw and colloquial words. By contrast, the sometimes-overexpository narration is measured, often metaphorical, as when Tim’s sister observes how “pity and its principal sidekick sadness were loafing around her dad’s dungeon like chronically obese demons.”
An existential examination of the cycle of violence. (Fiction. 14 & up)