Kathleen Jeffrie Johnson
Roaring Book Press
Reviewed by Nancy
5 out of 5 stars
Why had the men chosen him? What had they seen about him that said, I’m your target?
Savagely violated by two strangers, 16-year-old Grady West retreats into a deep silence. Everything about the life he knew fades away. He switches to a new school and stops calling his old friends. He can’t talk to his family. As fear and doubt and memories of his horrible experience take over his head, Grady can’t even eat. But there are those around him who can see beyond his silence and want to know who he really is. As Grady struggles to climb out of the pain and recover from his trauma, he begins to connect with people who show him that life is still worth living.
After attending a school concert, 16-year-old Grady West decides to walk home by himself and is brutally beaten and raped by two men. I wasn’t sure I was ready for another story about teenage suffering, but after Mike's recommendation I went to the library, dug in immediately and barely came up for air.
Grady’s story is harrowing. Before the attack, he hung out with his Group, the six friends he’d known since grade school. After the attack, he has abandoned his old friends and starts over at a new school. His memories continue to haunt him, he is barely able to speak, he has trouble eating, and he is plagued with self-doubt and confusion. Enter Jess, an outgoing African-American with dreadlocks whose relentless teasing finally elicits one-word responses and occasional half-smiles from Grady, and Pearl, a shy and slightly overweight girl who eventually succeeds in penetrating his shell.
The author very realistically explores the effects of rape on a troubled young man and sensitively portrays his confusion over his sexuality, his fear, despair, anxiety and pain. With the help of friends old and new, Grady has some hope.
I was very moved by this powerful and disturbing story.