Kindness For Weakness by Shawn Goodman
May 14, 2013 -Delacorte Books for Young Readers
272 pgs. – Yougn Adult, Fiction, Contemporary
Purpose: Review, Random TBR
Source: Publisher, Netgalley
5 stars *****
(Click Picture to go to Goodreads.)
I was given a copy of this title, free, in exchange for my honest opinion.
In short, this story is about James. He is fifteen years old and lives with his mother and her abusive boyfriend. His father left when he was 5 and his brother, Louis, has also left, and while they do interact with each other it is only on Louis’ terms and usually when Louis needs something.
James is a quiet character who walks to erase the hunger pains, and meets with his English teacher to discuss books and drink root beer. He is smart, but has no friends and an unstable family. Louis reaches out to him and asks him to do him a favor. In the midst of this Louis lies to him but James accepts it, quietly, and goes on. The favor puts James in jail.
This story is James’ journey, and I wish that I could say that there was hope to be found within these pages. But, there’s not. It is a hard and bitter journey, and it takes you places you would rather not go. It makes you feel things that you would rather not feel, or make you unsure how to feel. You are witnessing very brutal things through the eyes of a very quiet and weak boy. While he learns to get strong, he discovers things for himself. He slowly decides who he is and what he wants from life, without any real hope of a way to get there. He soon learns that it takes more than just wanting it.
He is able to make parallels between a book his English teacher has given him, and a book that he is given in group with his life and his stay in the juvenile detention center. But it is not enough to keep him safe or to give him a happily ever after.
Don’t get me wrong, this is an amazing book. Goodman does an excellent job of telling the story. But, it is not a happy one. It is one that I would definitely recommend to anyone, but especially those who are working with youth. Specifically, those considered to be “at risk”. Don’t go into this book, expecting a loud display of everything that is wrong with the system. Don’t expect the loudness of gang members who are used to being tossed and rehomed in jail. James is quiet, and thoughtful. He is not a fighter, he is not street smart. He knows that he is weak, but he is trying to survive – to do his time and never return.
Read this as a class, with a teen, as a group. Whatever. Discuss. Do not just read it, share your thoughts, your hopes and your rage.
I won’t lie to you. You will hate the ending. It’s not fair. It’s brutal and resounds with the hopelessness that the boys within the pages are burdened with. But, it is so worth the read.