cover image When We Was Fierce

When We Was Fierce

E.E. Charlton-Trujillo. Candlewick, $16.99 (400p) ISBN 978-0-7636-7937-8

Rival gangs. Drugs. Murder. These are what define the neighborhood of West Split where T, Jimmy, Catch, and Yo-Yo live. When T witnesses his older brother brutally murder a mentally impaired young man, he can’t resist trying to help. Badly beaten up for his trouble, T is suddenly in the spotlight, along with his friends: there’s media and police attention, people mobilizing for change, and gang intimidation. T’s widowed mother wants to save him by sending him away, but at 15 he’s determined to see things through—no matter the cost—because this is his home. Minimalist verse, permeated with slang, fits the rough-edged characters and environment Charlton-Trujillo (Fat Angie) so eloquently depicts (“Jive brothers rolled in hard./ They walked intent.... I didn’t want nuthin’ to do with their truth./ Sometimes it don’t matter what you want or intend./ It’s gonna go how it go”); the immediacy of the dialogue and T’s fears heighten a volatile situation that is all too real and relevant. Charlton-Trujillo gives voice to the unheard in this heartbreaking and powerful modern American story of friendship, family, loss, injustice, and courage. Ages 14–up. Agent: Erin Murphy, Erin Murphy Literary. (Aug.)