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by Watt Key

Age Range: 12 & up

Pub Date: July 1st, 2010
ISBN: 978-0-374-30863-6
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Although a companion to Alabama Moon (2006) in that it continues the story of one of that book’s main characters, this survival tale is by no means dependent on its predecessor. Hal Mitchell finds himself locked up in a juvenile facility and is told he needs to choose which gang to join. It’s the Death Row Ministers or the Hell Hounds, but Hal is determined to avoid both and keep his nose clean until Mr. Wellington, his lawyer, can spring him. As events unfold, the nature of the system becomes clear, as are the impossible odds stacked against him. Hal’s grit and determination provide him with some unexpected allies as well as enemies. Suspenseful and harrowing, the narrative underplays the bodily pain Hal endures but not his emotional and psychological wounds. A gripping tale of a 14-year-old caught in a justice system that is not about justice at all, Key’s sophomore outing will be satisfying to his early admirers even as he plows new territory by focusing on a completely different battle. (Fiction. 12 & up)