If I Grow Up by Todd Strasser
When DeShawn and his friends talk about the future they don’t say, “when I grow up,” they say, “if I grow up.” For them, the possibility of prison or an early death is very real. DeShawn manages to stay in school and away from the drug dealing and gang violence that claimed his mother’s life and plagues his inner-city neighborhood. But then his best friend Terrell joins a local gang called the Disciples and begins making his own money, lots of it. After DeShawn’s sister gives birth to twins, straining the family’s finances, his only means of helping support them is to join up as well.
If I Grow Up is an interesting look at the troubles facing inner-city youth. The odds are stacked agains the boys in this story and it is easy to understand why many of them end up joining gangs due to peer pressure or as an escape from poverty. You can tell the author is very passionate about the subject. While this causes him to be a little preachy in places, it allows him to hammer home his message. Overall, the story and characters didn’t blow me away, but the book definitely made me think.
Gateway Mondays is a weekly series in which we feature staff book reviews of this year’s Gateway Award Finalists. Join us next week as we wrap up this series by posting our predictions for the winner among these finalists and for the Truman Award!