Puerto Rican senior basketballer Francisco Ortiz can’t escape the past.
At first glance, he seems to have it all: a smart and sassy girlfriend named Reignbow, a sports scholarship to an elite boarding school in upstate New York, supportive parents and a cadre of cool friends in his East Harlem neighborhood. His closest buddy, Vincent, however, has a chip on his shoulder that he can’t seem to shake. Things go awry one fall weekend when Francisco comes home from school, and Vincent gets arrested for a petty crime. Things escalate from there, and drama, lies and murder all ensue as Francisco is forced to decide between his own life and Vincent’s. Takoudes’ first teen novel, adapted from his indie film, Up with Me, moves quickly with sharp, true-to-life dialogue, well-drawn characters and a lively NYC backdrop that’s full of both life and poverty. Readers learn right from the start that there’s been a murder, and the story then moves back six months to tell how it all happened. This structure mostly works. The scenes in NYC feel much more fleshed out than the ones that take place upstate, where the plot takes some unlikely twists that don’t jell with Francisco’s character. That won’t keep readers from speeding through this quick read, however, or from picking up some carefully injected Puerto Rican culture.
A fresh new voice in teen fiction. (Fiction. 14 & up)