Thursday, June 28, 2007

The Beast, by Walter Dean Myers

This book is a lot of things. It's a rich portrait of Harlem. It's a close look at how quickly drugs can ravage a young girl's life. But I think, more than anything, it's a powerful love story. Anthony "Spoon" Witherspoon gets a chance to spend his senior year of high school at a private academy that is a long train ride from his Harlem home. When he returns to the city for Christmas break he finds out that many of his friends have changed. One of his best friends dropped out of school. A girl on the block that everyone was sure would "make it" is pregnant. And Anthony's girlfriend, a beautiful Dominica poet named Gabi, has started using hard core drugs. One of the hardest first steps Anthony takes with Gabi is understanding how this could have happened. How could someone so smart and strong, someone who knew how horribly destructive the "Beast" of heroin could be, (cuz she grew up surrounded by it), how could she have let herself become an addict? Everybody has changed so much, and so, Anthony realizes, has he.

What I liked about this book: the poetic language and the sadness; sometimes books that make you cry are good to read, cuz feeling something so strong can be healing. I also loved the descriptions of the people and streets of Harlem. So beautiful and sad and hopeful.

What you'll like: I think you'll like the amazing love story. I think you'll also like Anthony as a narrator---he notices so many details and has a way of seeing things that is very powerful and true.

This is absolutely one of the most challenging books I'm going to booktalk and have on my classroom library shelves, but it was really THAT good. Yes, I'd say it's rated PG-13, but I am certain I can at least defend having a copy in my classroom library.

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