Sunday, July 20, 2008

No Choirboy: Murder, Violence, and Teenagers on Death Row by Susan Kuklin

From the back cover (of the galley): "Between 1990 and 2005, only eight countries in the world still sentenced people younger than eighteen to death for their crimes-Iran, China, Nigeria, The Democratic Republic of Congo, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Pakistan, and the United States of America." A powerful statement.

This book interviews men who were teenagers when they were sentenced to death row, families of those sentenced, and even victims of a man who was a teenager when he was convicted (and subsequently executed). It is very interesting food for thought. Generally I'm not a big fan of "in their own voices" story telling. I tend to think that that's why God invented editors - to tell a cohesive and tight story that doesn't meander and isn't full of "you knows" or "man..." or "does that make sense?" know, all those colloquialisms that are fine when you're speaking, but make for tedious and painful reading. However, in this collection of stories I get the sense that even though the author used their own words, there was quite a bit of editing to make it flow into an understandable narrative. And it is intense.

Never have I wanted to enter jail, but after reading this I want to even less. The men interviewed have been in prison and on death row from the time they were 16 years old. They are frank in their discussion of the savagery of prison life.

This book has a strong anti-death penalty agenda and I think by the end of the book it will have even the most pro-death penalty advocate thinking about whether or not an eye for an eye is the way we want our justice system to work. It is a book created to make the reader think about the criminal justice system and it most definitely accomplishes this goal.

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