This first novel by a counselor for youth gangs endeavors to portray the complex and gritty struggle of a Latino boy coming of age in a Los Angeles barrio in the late 1940s. Little Mike and his buddies go cruising and get into ``beefs'' with guys from other neighborhoods. Despite his ducktail, Mike lands the ``square'' Penny, a polite, well-dressed girl. But when Mike is wrongly accused of attempted murder, Duran's story turns into a fairy tale of unusually civilized juvenile delinquency camps where a boy can gain self-esteem and graduate to find a good job, re-enroll in school and marry his sweetheart. Yet inexplicably, in the end, Mike returns to the streets and is again arrested for attempted murder. Sadly, the author is unable to conjure up these circumstances with any degree of realism. The language is inauthentic and stilted (``Mike, I like you very much, in spite of your way of life,'' says Penny); the use of phrases like ``cool dude'' and ``groovy'' fails to convey the energy and rhythm of street language. Moreover, the scenes of gang life--a little drinking and occasional, sometimes justified, violence--are far too innocent and simplistic to be either believable or compelling. (May)
Reviewed on: 04/29/1991 Release date: 05/01/1991 Genre: Children's
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