Light of Day by Allison Van Diepen

LightOfDayLight of Day by Allison Van Diepen

From the author of Takedown and Street Pharm, comes Light of Day – a love story that’s ensnarled in the underground world of date-rape drugs and teenage prostitution. Gabby Perez is an intelligent and attractive high school student who hosts a call-in program on a local radio station. She has fallen from grace due to a recent break-up with Mr. Popular, but still walks the hallways with pride. One night while out partying she and a friend almost become victims to a pimp who drugs girls before kidnapping them. The evening is saved by a mysterious (handsome) stranger, who warns Gaby before it is too late.

Gaby is a strong female character who stands up for herself with her family, friends, and romances. She is loyal and headstrong, and wants to do right by the world. Gaby finds that not everyone wants to be helped and some people are never as real as you want them to be, while others might surprise you by stepping up just when you need them the most.

Author Allison Van Diepen writes a lot of exciting and popular titles. Check out her website for more info about her.

Titles by the same author: Takedown, Street Pharm, The Oracle of Dating, Raven, Snitch

Review by Sarah Rosenkrantz


Runner by Peter McPhee

RunnerRunner by Peter McPhee

Having moved from a comfortable home in Toronto to an apartment in Calgary after his parents’ bitter divorce, Kyle, his mother and sister Meghan are barely getting by. Kyle has begun to fit in at his new school, joining the football team, but Meghan feels like an outsider. On her own at the mall, 14 year old Meghan meets an older boy. Flattered by his attention, she begins staying out late and cutting school to be with him, eventually leaving home to move in with him. Their mother files a missing person report and Kyle begins staying out late, searching for Meghan among street kids. Kyle gets drawn into street culture himself while looking for his sister. This title is part of the Orca/Lorimer Side Streets series, written specifically for young adults. A fast read, the characters and setting are realistic, and it does not promise a happy ending. Especially good for Urban Drama fans.

Reviewed by Ellie Goldstein Erickson

Jumped In by Jorja Leap

JumpedInJumped in: what gangs taught me about violence, drugs, life and redemption by Jorja Leap

Jorja Leap, a UCLA researcher with a Ph.D in gangs and violence, devotes her professional life to understanding Los Angeles gangs, with the goal of reducing violence and saving lives. Working with current and former gang members, community activists, LAPD, social workers, a priest and others, she explains the origins, organization and shifts in gang culture including the rise and spread of Latino gangs in particular from LA through Mexico and Central America. Her personal life is also closely connected to her work, as she is married to an LAPD commander. Juggling work and home life, Jorja becomes enmeshed in the lives of young adults trying to leave gang life, often with the help of Father Greg Boyle. Father Boyle runs Home Boy Industries and Home Girl Café to give former and current gang members jobs. As time passes Jorja sees the hold drugs take on many of the gangs, both in dealing and using, but maintains hope for the future. Dr. Leap goes behind headlines in her description of her work, making many of the gang members people about whom the reader begins to care. She paints a “warts and all” picture of both the good guys and the bad guys of the gang situation in Los Angeles. This nonfiction book reads like a thriller, pulling in the reader to be engaged in real life issues.

How to succeed in leaving gang life by Jorja Leap

Review by Ellie Goldstein Erickson

How It Went Down by Kekla Magoon

how it went down

How It Went Down by Kekla Magoon

This ripped from the headlines story details the shooting of the black, sixteen-year-old Tarik Johnson by a white man named Jack Franklin.  The neighborhood is in an uproar, and even the eyewitness disagree about what they saw.  When Franklin is released by the police about claiming self-defense, the community tries to make sense of what really happened, but the truth seems to get more distressing as new accounts of the event come to light.

Magoon discloses the story from varying perspectives: local teens and adults, police logs, a local bodega owner, 911 emergency response call log and more.  Through the multiple points of view, readers are encouraged to draw their own conclusions about “How it went down.”  This story echoes incidents going on across the country without pointing fingers of blame and striving to give real insight into racial relations in the country today.  I commend Magoon for her good writing that makes readers feel that they are in the moment of the incident, while trying to show how urban violence can impact one young man and his community.  I highly recommend this to all teens and fans of urban drama.

37 things          rock and the river          fire in the streets

The Lure by Lynne Ewing


The Lure by Lynne Ewing

This quick-reading Urban Drama tells the story of fifteen-year-old Blaise, who lives in the dangerous neighborhood of Washington, DC, where gunshots and gangbanging is the norm rather than what the kids avoid.  Blaise is jumped in to the Core 9 gang, against the advice of her two best guy friends who are already in it.  They know that the leader Trek wants to make her a “lure,” to attract rival gang members to get revenge.  Although Blaise is wary, she can’t resist the power and money that being a lure brings her, but eventually she is forced to face some agonizing decisions.

This book is a decent example of Urban Drama and I think fans will like it.  The narrative is fast, with lots going on and feels fairly realistic.  I would recommend it to fans of the Bluford High series and readers who like Nini Simone and L. Divine books.

party girl          daughters of the moon          culture clash          girl like me

Men We Reaped by Jesmyn Ward

men we reaped

Men We Reaped by Jesmyn Ward

In the short span of four years, the author of this memoir lost five young men who she considered family.  They died from different actual causes-drugs, suicide, accidents- but Ward couldn’t help believing there was some sort of connection between the five deaths.  Something inside her whispered that they were all young, black, from the South and raised in poverty.  She wrote this book to ask why these tragic deaths occurred, and to look at the possibility that who they were and where and how they lived was a part of the equation.  Ward grew up in rural Mississippi, in a small, rural town called DeLisle.  As she recounts her memories of these young men, readers will begin to draw their own conclusions about our society.  One of the most poignant parts of the book states:

“My entire community suffered from a lack of trust: we didn’t trust society to provide the basics of a good education, safety, access to good jobs, fairness in the justice system.  And even as we distrusted the society around us, the culture that cornered us and told us we were perpetually less, we distrusted each other.  We did not trust our fathers to raise us, to provide for us.  Because we trusted nothing, we endeavored to protect ourselves, boys becoming misogynistic and violent, girls turning duplicitous, all of us hopeless.  Some of us turned sour from the pressure, let it erode our sense of self until we hated what we saw, without and within.  And to blunt it all, some of us turned to drugs.” (page 168)

When I first heard Ward interviewed about her book, I thought that her primary thesis was weak and wouldn’t be supported by the facts.  After reading the stories of these five young men, however, I can see how the impact of race, poverty and living in the rural South impacted their lives to a degree I had never originally anticipated.  Seeing life through Ward’s eyes, as a young person who did leave the South for college but was always connected to it emotionally, will make readers rethink their own beliefs and assumptions our our nation with its easy “freedom for all” facade.  I think this book will become a classic, much in the way Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings and Black Boy by Richard Wright have become.  I will be recommending this title to all my high school students and think it will be a hit here at Berkeley High School.

When I Was the Greatest by Jason Reynolds

when i was the greatest

When I Was the Greatest by Jason Reynolds

This Brooklyn, New York writer really knows how to take readers into the mind of a teenager boy living in Brooklyn who is trying his best to stay out of the troubles that sometimes seem to overwhelm his neighborhood..  This short, fast-paced book is told from the perspective of Ali, who lives in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood, which used to be full of crime but is slowly becoming gentrified.  He lives with his over-worked mom and little sister Jazz, and hangs out with his best friend Noodles and his brother Needles.  Needles has some type of syndrome, but is much calmer since Ali’s mom taught him to knit in order to focus his energy.  But Noodles is always on the prowl and gets them invited to an exclusive, adult-only party thrown by the block’s high roller named MoMo.  Can I just say a random misunderstanding has disastrous result!

I totally loved this book.  It’s definitely Urban Drama, but the main characters are trying to stay clean and all three have memorable and realistic personalities.  I would highly recommend this to all  teen readers, especially those who love Urban Drama.  This is Reynolds first book but we also have his second one, The Boy in the Black Suit.