Like Tom in the novel, the author is a half-Hispanic-singer-guitarist (known as Tom Paisley) who grew up in Brooklyn and Florida, and the whole book is a loose, funny, nonstop rap, mixing past and present verb tense with seeming obliviousness, that makes you feel you're listening to his spontaneous recollections. Moving to Brooklyn--where he decides it's true that ""Spanish people wear pointed shoes for killing cockroaches in corners""--has its hazards for Tom, who has to go to school across rooftops to avoid the gang out on the sidewalk. And it's bewildering too at first, as the only stranger who helps him when he's lost is the kind of swishy homosexual he'd always been warned against, and the same mean cop who gets Tom kicked out of Catholic school is real gentle with his little sister who gets stuck in the broom closet--then refers to her as ""some dumb spic kid"" a minute later. When Tom battles a scrappy little ""trashmouth"" Italian kid for a shoe shine spot, the two end up not only best friends but ""the Griffin brothers,"" singing in Irish bars on Sunday afternoon, making a hit at the eighth grade commencement exercises, and even cutting a record of the song they wrote--the ""New York City Too Far From Tampa Blues."" About Aurelio Tom says ""I just can't write down what he really talks like. If I did I'd catch hell,"" and in the same spirit as the blanks in Aurelio's speech are ail those observed street phenomena (like the chicks coming up and saying hello to his older friends on Eighth Avenue) that he claims not to understand. But granting Bethan court's cautious approach to writing for YA's, it's more authentic to leave blanks than to pretend the kids used milder epithets, and in any case there's never a doubt that Tom was right there in the midst of it--Brooklyn street life, Spanish-American family life, New York public miseducation, rock recording, whatever was going down.