A naïve young man does his best to survive a brutal stay in juvie in this story that is reminiscent of the work of E.R. Frank and Walter Dean Myers.
Fifteen-year-old James is sent to the Thomas C. Morton Jr. Residential Center in upstate New York after he is caught dealing drugs for his older brother, Louis. There, he tries to escape the notice of the ruthless guards and the street-gang recruiters by working out and keeping to himself. Despite his abusive upbringing, James is a sensitive teen who devours the books recommended by his English teacher, Mr. Pfeffer, and dreams of earning his neglectful mother’s love. Encouraged by a few kind staff members and Mr. Pfeffer’s letters, James tries to stay positive but is slowly drawn into the Center’s cycle of violence when he is targeted for being friends with an openly gay inmate named Freddie. When a sadistic guard attacks Freddie, James is forced to prove that his kindness is not weakness, with tragic results. Goodman’s background as a school psychologist is evident in his deeply felt characters and well-realized setting.
Readers who are not familiar with the often-harsh conditions of the juvenile justice system will receive a realistic and compelling examination of adolescent life behind bars in this second novel from the author of Something Like Hope (2011). (Fiction. 14 & up)