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Trade Reviews

  Booklist Review

Gr. 9-12. Following the death of his six-year-old son in a ghetto shooting, Mann's father made every effort to toughen up his surviving son: If he's gonna be a man, he's gonna have to learn to chew nails and hold a gun in his hand. Approximating an African coming-of-age ritual, he abandons Mann and his friend Kee-Lee at a distant campsite. The experiment ends in tragedy when Kee-Lee falls victim to more senseless violence. Will Mann respond by spiralling into a street thug's nihilistic existence, or will he become someone who takes trouble and makes something good out of it ? Flake's plot is relentlessly and purposefully grim as well as somewhat jumbled, with disparate story strands that include Mann's developing talents as an artist and his efforts to heal sick, abandoned horses at a city stable. But the vivid, raw voices that earned Flake a Coretta Scott King Award for The Skin I'm In (1998) and two Coretta Scott King Honors are in abundant evidence--and the complicated relationship between Mann and his father represents a welcome investigation of African American manhood, a theme that cries out for broader YA treatment. --Jennifer Mattson Copyright 2005 Booklist

  Kirkus Review

In a neighborhood where random death walks onto your front porch and kills you or your innocent little brother, Mann and Kee-lee become increasingly convinced that they'll die before reaching 17. Mann's parents are in a tailspin of grief and worry about their remaining son. Mann's father, in a bizarre belief that his son needs to be toughened up in order to survive, takes the two buddies camping and deserts them far from home. Making their way home pushes the boys into one risky, illegal and dangerous decision after another. Instead of getting sympathy and support on their return, Mann's father again turns them loose in the city with a little money and some sandwiches and orders not to come back. Unprepared, frightened and desperate, the boys become increasingly involved in criminal activity until disaster hits. The situation deteriorates with horrendous consequences, but somehow artistic Mann finds a way to a redemption of sorts. Gripping and troubling, Flake paints a provocative picture of teens struggling to deal with a world that is out of control and without adults capable of providing help. Powerful--and disturbing. (Fiction. YA) Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Mann is only thirteen, yet he has already had to deal with more than most go through in a lifetime. His family is still reeling from the tragic shooting death of his little brother, Jason, each person coping with grief in his or her own way. Mann's mother has stopped eating and is obsessed with preserving Jason's memory, while his father is certain that presenting a hard edge is the only way to keep his remaining son from becoming a statistic. Mann used to paint and ride horseback, but now he's doing everything he can to escape his emotions: getting involved in fights at school, joyriding at midnight, and much worse. His father, at his wit's end, does the only thing he thinks will teach his son how to be a man he abandons him and his friend Kee Lee in the woods, leaving them to navigate their way home, alone.
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