Benjamin Zephaniah, Author . Bloomsbury $7.95 (332p) ISBN 978-1-58234-886-5

Zephaniah (Refugee Boy ) paints a vivid picture of the hip-hop music scene and related gang warfare in London, but his message to readers is mixed. While attending an alternative school, three reputed trouble makers ("known for their confrontational behaviour") are given the opportunity to develop their music skills and voice their anger against their school system, their parents and other authority figures. Marga Man, the owner of a local music store, helps 15-year-old Ray and his buddies Tyrone and Prem form a band called the Positive Negatives; they release a hit single and the group is soon on the way to international stardom. The price of their success is high, however. Fans of a rival rap band grow vicious. Live concerts performed by the Positive Negatives become breeding grounds for fights, and the band members receive mysterious, recurring threats. On the one hand, the author clearly communicates the boys' commitment to their music and the ill effects of unleashed violence; on the other hand, his account of the three expelled students becoming overnight stars stretches credibility, and the expression of their anger seems to be the only purpose and goal for their music. Although the book features ultra-hip dialogue, romance and action, unfortunately, readers don't get a sense of the boys' characters or their relationships (to one another or to family members and other friends), and will likely remember the violence more than the author's message. Ages 14-up. (Aug.)

Reviewed on: 08/23/2004
Release date: 08/01/2004
Genre: Children's
Hardcover - 269 pages - 978-0-435-12562-2
Paperback - 332 pages - 978-0-7475-6565-9
Prebound-Sewn - 978-0-606-30298-2
Open Ebook - 336 pages - 978-1-4088-4254-6
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