cover image Babylon Boyz

Babylon Boyz

Jess Mowry. Aladdin Paperbacks, $28 (192pp) ISBN 978-0-689-80839-5

The author of Way Past Cool offers another piercing view of inner-city life in this hard-hitting, suspenseful novel set in Oakland, Calif. Dante, born to a mother on crack, has a bad heart but his father can't afford the operation he needs; Pook wants to become a doctor; and Wyatt, whose mother owns a restaurant, weighs about 300 pounds. They've been friends since childhood, and all three want nothing more than to escape their crime-ridden neighborhood, where everyone around them seems like ""little black ants... waitin' to get stepped on an' too stupid to see it."" The boys cannot find a route to their dreams--until they discover two packets of cocaine worth thousands of dollars. The moral dilemma that arises from their find is only one of the issues explored in this fast-paced, increasingly tense drama. Others include Pook's homosexuality, the homelessness of a younger boy the trio befriends and the ineffectiveness of a local rehab center run by a psycho-babbling counselor. Using dialogue that feels so genuine it nearly jumps off the page, Mowry personalizes the ghetto experience while clearly defining the conflicts, strengths and vulnerabilities of his characters, major and minor. His powerful images of violence and survival illuminate shadowy corners of contemporary urban America. Ages 12-up. (Apr.)