Publisher: Simon Pulse
Series: Hazelwood High #1
Reviewed In Series: Forged By Fire
Genres: Young-Adult/Realistic Fiction/African-American
Format: Paperback (180 pages)
My Rating: 5 Stars
After a car accident kills Robert, Andy’s best friend and teammate on the Hazelwood High Tigers, Andy doesn’t know if he can go on. He’s consumed with guilt for driving the night of the accident after a long evening of drinking and partying. With perceptiveness and compassion, Sharon M. Draper portrays an African-American teenager who feels driven to consider suicide in the wake of a devastating tragedy.
My Thoughts: This book is exactly how I remembered, heartbreaking. From beginning to end, Draper gives you all the details of what is happening around this tragic story. From the accident to the thoughts of Andy himself, teachers, friends, family, coaches, and counselors; the details will leave you with your emotions all over the place. And, trust me, you will cry. That’s the reason why I waited so long to read the other 2 books; I remembered what it felt like to read this one and I could never bring myself to acquire the others. I shouldn’t have read it again, but I did. I needed to refresh my memory of these characters and what role they played in Andy’s life.
Andy is an African-American teenager who lives with guilt and depression. One night of drinking and driving, with him behind the wheel, killed his best friend Rob. Those around him think that he’s dealing with it just fine, and Andy puts up a good front. However, his grades are slipping, his relationship with his girlfriend Keisha is falling apart, and his father’s lackadaisical attitude just adds to his low spirits. His girlfriend tries to be understanding of his feelings, but there’s only so much that she can take of his moodiness. Andy’s father has a point on certain things, but the way that he ignores his son made me mad. His mother is just as clueless. He fooled his therapist into thinking that he was okay, but when he was reaching out at the end, no one was there. That broke me down. The school counselor’s attitude when Andy’s friends went to her weeks prior, rubbed me the wrong way but was expected. No one saw the boy who was so desperately holding on until it was too late. His English teacher was maybe the only one who REALLY and TRULY cared about his acting out. She even called his father about his failing grades and misbehaving.
It’s no secret that most people assume that playing professional football and basketball, is the only way that a black man can be successful. I’m not stating this to be judgmental, but it’s true. You wouldn’t believe some of the things that I’ve heard growing up and right now at my job even. Whispers float and these ears have caught a lot of stuff in the air. This book not only gives you a perspective about what most African-American males go through during their teen years; It’s the felling of worthlessness that comes from teachers not giving a d**m, talking behind your back about not being good enough, and just the thought of “all black people amount to nothing” whispers that float throughout society. It’s true. When you grow up around racist people who are only in it for a paycheck, that stuff hurts. Some teachers hate their jobs. Let me rephrase, they hate that they had to take a job teaching black kids whom they think will never be successful in anything. How do I know? I walked in on a conversation almost identical to the one written in this book. Those teachers were white. They never even knew I was there, and if they had I’m not even sure they would have cared. This is not about that, but it gives you incite into the mind of certain people. How they think. How they feel. And most people just don’t get that. They’d rather judge you anyway because of the color of your skin. Because it’s how they were taught. No one is born racist. Maybe not racist, but a heavy sense of misjudgment. I hate both!
This book really is about depression and it’s many telltale signs. I wish that it had been different, but maybe the anguish was needed. That’s why this book is required reading in most schools. It wasn’t required when I was in school, but my English teacher bought the books herself for us to read. I remember the long discussions about it during class and how passionate we all were about our opinions of the characters. A great book to read if you want some incite on African-American lives, depression, suicide, stereotypes, and the like. I definitely recommend!