Playground

50 Cent, Author, Lizzie Akana, Illustrator
50 Cent with Laura Moser. Razorbill, $17.99 (256p) ISBN 978-1-59514-434-8
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Rapper turned actor and author 50 Cent makes his YA debut with a candid tale about a middle-schooler dealing with pressures from his peers and his broken family. Overweight and nearly friendless, “Butterball” has just been suspended from school for assaulting a classmate with a sock filled with batteries. As he returns to school, visits his father in New York City, and talks to his therapist, Liz, his frustrations come to light. His always-working mother has too little time for him, while his father spends most of their occasional weekends together encouraging his violence (even forcing him to shoplift) and making fun of his weight. Although Butterball benefits from some positive influences, including Liz and his friend Nia, it’s his desire to better himself (and his interest in filmmaking) that help him overcome his circumstances and his reputation. 50 Cent’s story follows a predictable arc, but he throws in some twists and doesn’t hold back when portraying violence or Butterball’s difficult home life. Butterball’s unrepentant, unpretentious, and authentic narrative voice, meanwhile, is more than enough to carry the story. Ages 12–up. (Nov.)
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