cover image Entering the Way

Entering the Way

James Raven. Bantam Books for Young Readers, $3.25 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-553-29929-8

This first volume of a new series introduces a multiracial foursome of teenage karate students--Keith, Joel, Kim and Davina--who pledge themselves to applying the philosophy of karate to fighting off Nemesis, a street gang taking over their neighborhood. Raven's characters are a little too squeaky-clean to be likable, functioning more as two-dimensional emblems than as true-to-life figures. Also, the book's karate lore reads like a sequence of fortune cookie sayings and leaves the reader with a caricature of that ancient and honorable tradition. Finally, since race and ethnicity are mentioned in only the vaguest of terms (no one ever utters a slur of any sort), an air of unreality permeates the action. Raven's worthwhile efforts here--to portray teenagers of divergent backgrounds working together to forge meaningful lives in the face of social and economic hardship--are unfortunately undercut by the lack of a clear voice in which he could express his vision. Ages 10-up. (Feb.)