Once again, Woodson (If You Come Softly; From the Notebooks of Melanin Sun) reveals a keen understanding of the adolescent psyche via the narration of a winning seventh-grader. Lafayette, whose mother has recently died, is worried that some day he will be separated from his two older brothers: high-school-graduate Ty'ree, who gave up a scholarship to MIT to take care of his younger siblings; and Charlie, the rebellious middle boy, who, after spending more than two years in a correctional facility, has returned home cold and tough. (Lafayette calls him ""Newcharlie,"" because his brother, with whom he was once so close, now seems unrecognizable to him.) Viewing household tensions and hardships through Lafayette's eyes, readers will come to realize each character's internal conflicts and recognize their desperate need to cling together as a family. The boys' loyalties to one another are tested during a cathartic climax, though it is resolved a bit too easily, and Lafayette's visions of his mother aren't fully developed or integrated into the plot. Gang violence and urban poverty play an integral part in this novel, but what readers will remember most is the brothers' deep-rooted affection for one another. An intelligently wrought, thought-provoking story. Ages 10-up. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 04/24/2000 Release date: 04/01/2000 Genre: Children's
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