Monday, July 30, 2012

Book Review: Rikers High, by Paul Volponi

Rikers High follows the pattern of all Volponi novels -- disadvantaged teens in trouble, trying to find their way through, while some adults are helpful and others totally useless.

In this case, Martin is in jail at Rikers Island. He's being accused of "steering" -- when an undercover officer asked him where he could score some dope, Martin told him. Because of the system, his hearing has been postponed several times, so Martin has been in jail for about five months and this story covers the last two weeks.

Volponi is clear in his Author's Note that these characters are fictional, but everything that happens in the book has actually happened to prisoners. I have no doubt it has, which makes this book even harder to stomach. I feel angry and frustrated at the injustices doled out to these kids, and I was saddened by their helplessness.

In typical Volponi style, Rikers High is short and simply written. It's told from Martin's POV, so the language is simple and easy to follow. The pace is quick. Martin is fairly smart about keeping himself safe, and we get his inner dialog and explanation of why he behaves in the way he does. We get to know some other inmates a bit, and a variety of teachers who try to help these kids get through school (well some of them do...), but this is Martin's story. He's the one we care about.

Rikers High is a boy book, but some girls will enjoy it. These are great book for reluctant readers, and while they are a bit formulaic, all of Volponi's books spend a lot of time checked out of the library. If you can get a kid to read one of them, then they will usually continue and read them all. By the way, Black and White is my favorite.

Published by Viking, 2010
Copy obtained from the library
246 pages (qualifies for my Books You Can Read in a Day Challenge!)

Rating: 3.5/5

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1 comment:

  1. I haven't heard of this one, but it sounds interesting, especially since you said a good pick for reluctant readers.
    Thanks for review,
    Brandi from Blkosiner’s Book Blog


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