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BOY KILLS MAN by Matt Whyman

BOY KILLS MAN

By Matt Whyman

Age Range: 14 & up

Pub Date: March 1st, 2005
ISBN: 0-06-074663-7
Publisher: HarperCollins

Twelve-year-old Sonny and his friend Alberto sell cigarettes on the streets of Medellín, Colombia, until a run-in with a burglar earns Alberto a “recommendation” to the local boss. Kids make useful assassins since they can’t be legally prosecuted, and once drugged, they act without qualm. When Alberto “disappears,” Sonny vows to “make the most” of his life “just like Alberto . . . and make my mark.” The “telling-it-like-it-is” voice seems intended to be nonjudgmental without glorifying this chillingly real situation; but the canned tough-guy-speak is skin-deep (“The events of that afternoon went down deep for us both. It became part of who we are”), as is the “shocker” ending. With a blurb from Melvin Burgess, many will compare the “unvarnished” tone of this to Burgess’s, but don’t be fooled. This is all pretense—tragic and horrifying, with none of the context or real characterization to give readers a point of reflection. There are better titles about young people and street violence, including Ineke Holtwijk’s Asphalt Angels (1999) and Walter Dean Myers’s Monster (1999). Don’t subject your readers to this one. (Fiction. YA)