cover image Tight


Torrey Maldonado. Penguin/Paulsen, $16.99 (192p) ISBN 978-1-5247-4055-9

Set in Brooklyn public housing, this novel by Maldonado (Secret Saturdays) centers on Bryan, a Puerto Rican sixth grader grappling with a volatile home life, a friend he can’t trust, his conscience, and his identity. Since leaving jail, Pa hasn’t done much except “hanging in the streets with his homeboys,” but he “still spends zero time” with Bryan and his sister. His level-headed, loving mother has always counseled her son to focus on school rather than friends, since the “wrong friends bring drama,” which proves true when Bryan meets Mike, an edgy, older schoolmate who shares Bryan’s love of reading superhero comics and drawing. Wary of Mike’s mood swings and manipulative behavior yet fearful of being labeled “soft,” Bryan follows Mike’s lead—skipping school and riding the subway by hanging out the back car—while feeling “far away from who I am.” The author shrewdly builds suspense, fueling readers’ dread that Bryan’s poor choices will have dire consequences, but lands Bryan in a satisfying place. This is a psychologically intricate story of the challenges and rewards of family, friendship, and discerning one’s true self. Ages 10–up. [em](Sept.) [/em]