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This hard-hitting and lyrical novel opens with the apparent hanging of Jimmi Sixes, a disturbed 18-year-old veteran and street poet/junkie, back in the Bronx after his discharge from the army; the story then retraces the preceding month's events. Stubborn 15-year-old Tamika (aka Mik), who lives in the projects called the Orange Houses, is hearing-impaired but often prefers to turn off her hearing aids and text message rather than speak. Jimmi introduces her to Fatima, an illegal refugee who has just arrived from Africa ("Her pinky and ring finger were gone. If she held up the hand, say to block a machete blade, the angle of the slash through her palm would match that of the slash crossing her cheek"), and a friendship blossoms. Fatima and Jimmi try to protect Mik from a box-cutter-wielding girl and her posse, but Jimmi ends up caught by a vigilante group. Griffin's (Ten Mile River) prose is gorgeous and resonant, and he packs the slim novel with defeats, triumphs, rare moments of beauty and a cast of credible, skillfully drawn characters. A moving story of friendship and hope under harsh conditions. Ages 14-up. (June) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.
*Starred Review* Much like Rita Williams-Garcia's Jumped (2009), this story follows three kids through the pressure cooker of inner-city teenage life as it moves toward its crushing conclusion. Whereas that book mined the minor humiliations and overblown dramas that swirl during a single school day, this has a much more diffuse scope. The three characters couldn't be any more different: Tamika Sykes is a partially deaf student agonizing over whether she really wants to hear all the noise surrounding her; Fatima Espérer is a 16-year-old refugee who fled the violence and poverty of her unspecified African country to live in the shadow of the Statue of Liberty; and depending on who you ask, Jimmy Sixes, already a disturbed veteran at age 18, is either a street poet or a junkie. The three form an unusual friendship, connecting both artistically and emotionally. All this is set in a city that has become a powder keg of anti-immigration sentiment (thanks to a recently passed law that rewards citizens for reporting illegals) and is perilously close to the ever-present spark of gang violence. Griffin clearly knows teens, especially the way they speak. In another writer's hands, this story of three outcasts might have turned into a sentimental mess, but he keeps the depth of emotion honest as his characters battle alienation and find strength in sacrifice. Although readers will be prepared for an unnerving journey from the opening scene, they will nevertheless be floored by some of the turns in this swift, tense, and powerful book.--Chipman, Ian Copyright 2009 Booklist
School Library Journal
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Gr 8 Up-Consumed with fitting in, 15-year-old Tamika tries to cover her hearing aids with her hair. She wants to be pretty and secretly dreams of being liked by her friend Jimmi, an 18-year-old war veteran who's been severely damaged by his experiences, turned to drugs, and cast out by society. But things don't seem to be going her way and Tamika copes by turning off her aids and shutting out the world. This angers her mother who is working two jobs to earn enough to pay for her daughter's auditory surgery. Tamika isn't sure she wants to hear again, until she meets and befriends Fatima, a vibrant illegal immigrant from Africa who comes to her Bronx neighborhood. Filled with uncertainty, identity confusion, and fear, the three teens form a friendship. Still, they are continually socially and physically abused by gangs and one day the threats go too far, Jimmi is almost killed, and immigration deports Fatima. Tamika survives to move on, with her mother's help. Griffin serves up hard-hitting descriptions of urban life and reflective street dialogue. This poetic, yet sometimes cryptic read is about being smart, resilient, and humane in an often-unforgiving world.-Kimberly Monaghan, formerly at Vernon Area Public Library, IL (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.