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CHAMELEON by Jr. Smith


by Jr. Smith

Age Range: 14 & up

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 2008
ISBN: 978-0-7636-3085-0
Publisher: Candlewick

A teen explores his colors and himself in this snapshot of one summer in the city. Fourteen-year-old Shawn is doing exactly what he wants to do during the summer: shooting hoops and sitting on stoops in Compton. When he’s not hanging with his crew, Shawn’s watching over his alcoholic aunt, avoiding gang colors and wooing the beautiful Marisol. High-school selection, puberty and social influences are all ahead of Shawn during this transformational summer. Bouncing Shawn’s attention between food, friendship, girls and literature, Smith successfully mines the mind of many a teenager. However, his habit of mentioning an issue on one page only to examine it on the next reduces dramatic tension and leaves readers feeling as though the author doubts their ability to comprehend foreshadowing—possibly a holdover from his previous works for younger children. Dual households, first crushes and gang violence receive honest treatment, though Shawn’s aunt’s drunken hysterical comes across as cheap. Smith’s debut into young-adult fiction holds great promise for further transition. (Fiction. YA)