Julia has always kept her nose clean. Even though she attends a gang infested Brooklyn High School, she's managed to stay out of the gang scene and keep an eye on the prize (ie. good grades, graduation, and college). She's just rolling along...that is until Eric shows up. A new boy who is hot, hot, hot and makes Julia lose her head. Suddenly things aren't so black and white anymore and she's got to decide whether she wants Eric or whether she wants to stay out of the action.
This book is going to be highly appealing to reluctant readers. I know that the kids we work with at the detention center will eat this up. This is exactly the kind of book they are always requesting. Its got gangs and criminal activity, its got violence and action, and of course a romance. All things they request every time we see them.
As in Street Pharm, the author's previous novel, this book features characters who are involved in gangs and who feel it is a normal part of life. Both novels feel this way right up until about 20 pages from the end when the main characters have rapid changes of heart. The late turnaround actually helps keep the book from feeling like an overly moralized tale, which will be very appreciated by it's readers. The book moves at a fast clip and the story progresses rapidly. All good things.
If you're an older reader, the way that characters rationalize being in gangs and romanticize gang life will probably seem a bit lame (I mean when I hear kids talk like this in person it seems lame, so it makes sense that it would still seem lame in a book). The characters in this book do lack introspection and imagination. But, to be frank, so do lots of the kids I see at the library in real life. Why else would they pepper their Myspace profiles with gang colors irregardless of actually being in a gang? Or how about pose for pictures with their shirts off like a tough guy even even if they're scrawny 100 pound weaklings? Or better yet, lean over to shove their ass in the air in what they think is a provocative and sexy way...in a bathroom? It certainly seems to me that they could be finding better ways to represent themselves, but then I'm not them. So it is important to keep in mind this book wasn't written for us. Put simply, it's street lit for teens who want stories that reflect "their" way of life. Does this book do a good job? It sure seems like it to me.