cover image On the Hook

On the Hook

Francisco X. Stork. Scholastic Press, $17.99 (304p) ISBN 978-1-338-69215-0

Throughout Stork’s (Illegal) unflinching, fully fleshed out novel centering a 16-year-old chess aficionado turned reformatory school student, his introspective Mexican American protagonist wrestles with an unimaginable question: “How could he live with himself knowing that he let his brother die?” The journey to find an answer forms the bulk of the narrative, examining the weight of guilt, the drive for revenge, and toxic masculinity in fine-point detail. Set in El Paso, Tex., and told in limited third-person perspective, Stork’s narrative introduces readers, before tragedy strikes, to Hector Robles. Hector aspires to achieve grandmaster status before his 18th birthday and to eventually get his family out of public housing. But when classmate Joey zeroes in on Hector for targeted harassment and violence, which escalates to a brutal, tragic confrontation between their families, Hector must decide whether his need for revenge outweighs his desire to heal. From the novel’s first chapter, Stork transmits the emotions “going at it bare-fisted in the boxing ring inside [Hector’s] head” with sensitivity and finesse, laying bare Hector’s complex, dynamic feelings right up until the novel’s cathartic end. Ages 12–up. [em]Agent: Faye Bender, the Book Group. (May) [/em]