Monday, December 14, 2009

Review: DopeSick by Walter Dean Myers

Another book with a skinny spine, which you probably know I’m a fan of. And since this one was written by Walter Dean Myers, I hoped it would pack just the punch I love. I wasn’t disappointed.

In DopeSick, Lil J is having a really bad day. He’s running from the police, hiding inside an abandoned building (at least he thinks it is) with a gunshot wound to his arm. His friend Rico has already been arrested, and now there’s a manhunt for Lil J.

Inside the abandoned crack house, Lil J finds Kelly. Kelly is watching TV, with strange images of Lil J’s past and future. At the start of the book, we get the impression Lil J is just at the wrong place at the wrong time, but as we read on, it becomes apparent that Lil J has something of a skewed perception of himself. Kelly confronts him with his past mistakes, with the bad decisions he’s made to get him where he is: wounded, running from the police, destined to wind up dead.

DopeSick, in its simplest definition, is A Christmas Carol meets the ghetto. The story is terse, immediate—and what surprised me most was how this book made me take a closer look at my own beliefs. At the start of the book, I wanted to believe Lil J was a stand-up guy with some tough breaks. When our lead was exposed as a ghetto stereotype: an unemployed drug user, failing in high school, and a baby mama he wasn’t supporting, I didn’t know what to make of Lil J, or my own disappointment in him.

The end of the book is poetic, though I have to admit that it was Lil J’s flaws that kept me thinking long after I turned the last page.

Read this book. Let me know how you experienced it.

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