Teen-age readers will be familiar with harsh events like these from headlines and TV reports; Myers brings a comples understanding to dealing with them. Jamal Hicks, 12, lives with his mother and younger sister in Harlem. His older brother Randy is in prison for holding up a deli; though his guilt seems certain, his family is obsessed with finding money for his appeal. Approached to take Randy's place as head of his gang, the Scorpions, Jamal resists--he knows the danger. But his deteriorating school career, his need for the appeal money, and his fascination with the gun that Randy's friend Mack gives him work together to change his mind. When his bid for power puts him in conflict with tougher gang members, the result is a confrontation that involves his gentle friend Tito in a murder. Myers uses street rhythms and language to tell his story in a tough, honest fashion, making clear that such tragic events have many causes, in both society and individuals. A painful story with a conclusion that offers escape as an answer--but not as a solution.