Personally, I didn’t enjoy this book. The story could have been interesting, but the narrative put me off. It’s told first person, and the whole thing sounded like an imitation of teenagers speaking rather than an authentic voice. Now, to quantify my opinion, I grew up in a part of San Antonio where many people were having sex by the time they were thirteen, gangs and drugs were everywhere, violence was a serious problem, gunshots erupted every night in the neighborhood, most people had failed at least a grade or two, dropouts and teen pregnancies were in the top ratings in the country, and there were separate English and Reading classes in middle school because our test scores were soooo bad. In essence, I grew up in the same sort of place as the narrator. I grew up listening to the sorts of things that people said, and I remember, very well, what it was like to be a teenager. And if I’d have read this, as a teenager, my opinion would have been to scoff and say, They really think we talk and act like that? It didn’t feel real. The emotions were genuine, but the voice was not. Not in my eyes, anyway.
To be fair, I admit this is probably one of the most difficult voices in the world to tackle. To sound authentically wayward-teen is next to impossible. But when writing a book from this particular perspective, voice is key, and it just didn’t sit well with me.
That, and while the book was meant to be YA, it felt more like a book written for parents of wayward children, to help parents understand the world their children live in. Which is a good thing, sure, but then I wonder why it was written to be YA, you know? Does this book really help teenagers? Maybe. I don’t know. I know it wouldn’t have helped me or the majority of people I knew.
The ending was also too neat for my tastes.
I always feel bad giving a negative review of a book by a modern author. I know a lot of people would like this book. Part of my objection is just that it didn’t feel like an accurate portrayal of a world I know all too well. Someone with a different background than mine might find this eyeopening, stunning, and a great window into that world. It’s not terrible. It just didn’t appeal to me.