cover image Trapped Between the Lash and the Gun: A Boy's Journey

Trapped Between the Lash and the Gun: A Boy's Journey

Arvella Whitmore. Dial Books for Young Readers, $16.99 (185pp) ISBN 978-0-8037-2384-9

From its lurid title to its lackluster plotting and prose, this time-slip fantasy of an African-American boy who travels back to the antebellum South to be taught the lessons of slavery firsthand delivers far less than the premise might suggest. In order to become a full-fledged member of the Cobra gang, 12-year-old Jordan must raise the money for a gun. He steals his grandfather's gold watch, which once belonged to the slaveholder who owned one of Jordan's forebears. On his way to the pawnshop, Jordan rushes through an underpass and suddenly finds himself on a Southern plantation. Whitmore (The Bread Winner) touches upon many of the evils of slavery--backbreaking labor, squalid living conditions, physical punishment, auctions, death, even, glancingly, miscegenation--but with the formulaic writing and superficial characterizations, readers are not likely to be moved. The lesson that Jordan takes back to the city--that gangs are the contemporary version of slavery--may be a profound one, but here it seems facile and unconvincing. Ages 11-up. (Jan.)