cover image Efrain's Secret

Efrain's Secret

Sofia Quintero, . . Knopf, $16.99 (265pp) ISBN 978-0-375-84706-6

Adult author Quintero (Divas Don't Yield ) delivers an in-your-face YA debut, a passionate polemic on racial politics in urban America. Couched in an explosive morality tale, the story is narrated by a driven high school senior in the South Bronx with the odds stacked against him (“...although I'm very smart, I'm too brown and too poor. In other words, I could never be smart enough”). To raise money for an Ivy League education, Efrain resorts to selling drugs (“I'm tired of being the good boy who never has anything to show for it.... Doing the right thing is supposed to be its own reward, but that's not enough to pay my tuition”). His efforts to justify his choice, understand his actions, and come to terms with myriad unforeseen consequences—especially after he gets caught—are felt on every page. Relevant SAT vocabulary words (like “pittance” and “apprehend”) begin each chapter, and seamlessly interwoven subplots, including Efrain's complex connection to his philandering father and his evolving relationship with Candace, a survivor of Hurricane Katrina, make the story that much more emotionally resonant. Ages 12–up. (Apr.)