Rikers High by Paul Volponi
Seventeen-year-old Martin Stokes has spent five long months waiting behind bars for his trial for a petty crime. He used to think his New York City neighborhood was tough, until he got to the infamous Rikers Island jail. Here, he’s found it safest not to even talk to anyone at all, even though the isolation is wearing him down. As a bleak reminder of where he is, Martin has a long, jagged scar on the right side of his face from when he was cut with a razor for not getting out of the way quickly enough during an inmate fight. At least his injury gets him sent to a different section of the jail where he’s actually sent to classes to earn credit towards his high school diploma. But will the kindness of some of the teachers be enough to save Martin from the dangers at Rikers and his own need for revenge on the kid who cut him?
This realistic title was written by Paul Volponi, who many readers remember from Black and White and Rucker Park Setup. As one of the teachers on Rikers Island for five years, Volponi incorporates much of the incidents he witnessed into this fictional account. Reading the book, I felt like I was there along with Martin, experiencing the prison slang, tension and inmates along with him.
I would recommend this to readers of Urban Drama, Paul Volponi fans and anyone who wants to see what it’s like for a teenager inside a prison.