cover image Black and White

Black and White

Paul Volponi, . . Viking, $15.99 (192pp) ISBN 978-0-670-06006-1

Volponi's (Rikers ) excellent novel has it all: authentic characters, a thought-provoking plot and heartbreaking drama. Marcus Brown and Eddie Russo are best friends and basketball stars at a Queens, N.Y., high school, well-known not only for their athletic prowess but also because Marcus is black and Eddie white ("Kids who are different colors don't get to be that tight in my neighborhood"). As Marcus says, they've gotten "past all that racial crap," but the novel makes it clear that the rest of society hasn't. Short on cash, the boys stick up a few strangers using Eddie's grandfather's gun, which accidentally discharges during their third robbery, grazing an African-American man's head. In alternating first-person narratives, the two describe the aftermath of the events. Marcus is arrested first because the victim recognizes him as a passenger on the public bus he drives. The cops soon connect the dots and figure out Eddie is "the shooter," but the evidence against him is only circumstantial. Grand plans of scholarships and pro careers begin to unravel, more dramatically for Marcus, whose family does not have the means to hire an attorney. The two teens wrestle with guilt and obligation—to their parents, to their victims and to each other. The mess in which they find themselves raises questions about the burdens of friendship and the role race plays in criminal justice. The fast-paced action, vivid on-court scenes and gritty, natural dialogue make this a pageturner of a tale. Ages 12-up. (May)