Review by Hunter Stokes – Grade 7, Memorial Middle School
Amazing. Intriguing. Unstoppable. These are the three words that best describe S.E. Hinton’s book The Outsiders. A tale that takes it’s readers on a journey of friendship, gang life, and the challenges that every teenager takes on in their everyday life. It’s impossible to put down. Ponyboy Curtis, a fourteen year-old member of the Greaser gang, knows that there will never be an end to the senseless fighting between them and the rival gang, the Socs (So-ches). He’s the only member of the gang that likes school, learning, reading, writing, or even movies, but that doesn’t stop him from continuing to be Greaser with his two brothers Darryl (Darry for short) and Sodapop (that’s right, it even says so on his birth certificate!), and their friends Two-Bit Matthews, Dallas Winston (Dally for short), Johnny Cade (Ponyboy’s best friend), and Steve Randall. After Ponyboy gets beat up by some of the Socs he goes out to the movies with his pals Dally and Johnny, where they meet two girls named Sherry Valance (Cherry because her hair is red) and Marcia (no last name) who are from the Socs’ part of town. Dally, being the “bad boy” he is, proceeds to talk dirty to them and Cherry end up throwing her Coke on him. As most guys would do, he runs off in a fit of rage. The girls ask Johnny and Ponyboy to come and protect them, and the boys do. Two-Bit shows up and threatens the boys. This is the point in the book where the story really takes off, bring your mind with it.
To me, this book showed me another side to the world. As kids in Middlebury or Southbury, we live mainly sheltered lives, thinking we know how hard life can be. But let’s be honest, we live great lives, no matter how you feel towards family, friends, or peers. These kids have lived horrible lives, in Oklahoma City. When you think of cities with a lot of crime and violence, you think Detroit, Los Angeles, or even Waterbury. But not Oklahoma. That brings to mind one of the best basketball teams in the league, but that’s for another time. My point is, we don’t know how hard life can be. Modern problems for us are grades, and small things that show how spoiled we are. They had to worry about being split up from the little family they had left, whether the police would arrest them, or if the Socs would try to ambush a single member of the gang. Noticing the differences in our lifestyles, this book made me able to see the other side of life, and how some people have it much harder than we do. Oh and did I mention that this book is based on S.E. Hinton’s life, and that she wrote it when she was 15!
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Shorty is a Hatian boy trapped in the rubble of his hospital room after the catestrophic earthquake in 2010. As his mind wanders over the traumatic events of his short life, he waits in vain for rescue. Shorty remembers the violence living in Site Soley, the most poverty stricken and violent area in the Western Hemisphere. The murder of his father and kidnapping of his twin sister by gang members, the death of his friends Biggie, finding a baby in the trash on the side of the road…all these memories swirl around him as consciouness comes and goes.
Alternately, we go back to 1791 where Toussaint Louverture, famed Haitian revolutionary, is leading the Slave Rebellion in the French colony of Saint Domingue. Toussaint witnesses Vodou rituals with fellow revolutionary Boukman. Superstition and ritual spurred on the slaves, as they revolted and reclaimed a free Haiti.
What brings these two stories together? Struggle. Oppression. Hope. Superstition. Zombis. Life. Death. Darkness.
Nick Lake has done a masterful job intertwining these two tales of Haiti, one modern and one timeless. Rich in history, In Darkness opens a window to a seldom seen part of our world. I can see why In Darkness was named 2013 Printz Award winner.
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