A racially charged shooting reveals the complicated relationships that surround a popular teen and the neighborhood that nurtured and challenged him.
Instead of a gangster after retribution, 16-year-old African-American Tariq Johnson’s killer is a white man claiming to have acted in self-defense. Despite their failure to find a weapon on the black teen, the police release the shooter, rocking the community. On its face, this novel sounds like an easy example of fiction “ripped from the headlines.” However, Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe Award–winning writer Magoon provides an intriguing story that allows readers to learn much about the family, friends and enemies of everyone affected. There are young men attempting to navigate the streets and young women, including one who tried in vain to save Tariq, wishing for better lives but with little idea how to change their paths. There are the grief-stricken family and adults who seek to give voice to powerless people but also serve themselves. The episode affects even those who think they have moved away from the community. As each character reflects on Tariq, a complex young man is revealed, one who used his considerable charm to walk the tightrope of life in his neighborhood. Magoon skillfully tells the story in multiple, sometimes conflicting, voices.
This sobering yet satisfying novel leaves readers to ponder the complex questions it raises. (Fiction. 14 & up)