The 57 Bus: A True Story of Two Teenagers and the Crime That Changed Their Lives
The 57 Bus: A True Story of Two Teenagers and the Crime That Changed Their Lives

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Annotation: This riveting nonfiction book for teens about race, class, gender, crime, and punishment tells the true story of an agender teen who was set on fire by another teen while riding a bus in Oakland, California.
Genre: Biographies
Catalog Number: #149480
Format: Perma-Bound Edition from Publisher's Hardcover
All Formats: Search
Copyright Date: 2017
Edition Date: 2017
Pages: 305 pages
Availability: Available
ISBN: Publisher: 0-374-30323-1 Perma-Bound: 0-605-99385-8
ISBN 13: Publisher: 978-0-374-30323-5 Perma-Bound: 978-0-605-99385-3
Dewey: 920
LCCN: 2016050815
Dimensions: 21 cm.
Language: English
Reviews:
ALA Booklist
Slater handles the sensitive subject matter of adolescence, hate crimes, the juvenile justice system, and the intersection of race and class with exemplary grace and emotional connection. Sasha, a genderqueer teen riding the 57 bus, was asleep when Richard Thomas, an African American teen, decided to play a prank by playing with a lighter by her skirt. But the skirt caught fire. Sasha spent grueling amounts of time in a hospital burn unit, and Richard spent the rest of his high-school career mired in a long trial and awaiting sentencing. In this true-crime tale, Slater excels at painting a humanistic view of both Sasha and Richard, especially in the aftermath of the crime. Readers will enjoy that Sasha's life is completely developed, while other readers may have a few unresolved questions surrounding Richard's upbringing. Ultimately, this book will give readers a better understanding of gender nonbinary people and a deep empathy for how one rash action can irrevocably change lives forever.
Publishers Weekly
Journalist and author Slater (Escargot) offers a riveting account of the events that preceded and followed a 2013 assault in Oakland, Calif. Both Sasha (a white, agender private school teenager) and Richard (an African-American public school student who had lost numerous loved ones to murder) rode the 57 bus every day. One afternoon, Richard-egged on by friends-lit the sleeping Sasha-s skirt on fire, and the resulting blaze left third-degree burns over 22% of Sasha-s body. Sixteen-year-old Richard was arrested and charged as an adult with committing a hate crime. The short, easily digestible chapters take a variety of forms, including narrative, poetry, lists (including terms for gender, sex, sexuality, and romantic inclinations), text-message conversations, and Richard-s heartrending letters of apology to Sasha. Using details gleaned from interviews, social media, surveillance video, public records, and other sources, Slater skillfully conveys the complexities of both young people-s lives and the courage and compassion of their families, friends, and advocates, while exploring the challenges and moral ambiguities of the criminal justice system. This painful story illuminates, cautions, and inspires. Ages 12-up. Agent: Erin Murphy, Erin Murphy Literary. (Oct.)

School Library Journal Starred Review
Gr 6 UpOn November 4, 2013, Sasha, a high school senior from Oakland, CA, was napping on the 57 bus home from school. Shortly thereafter, Richard, another Oakland teen, boarded the bus with his two friends. When the trio's jokes took a dark turn, Richard's and Sasha's lives were forever changed. Slater, who originally covered the crime for the New York Times magazine, here breaks down the series of events into short and effective chapters, divided into four parts: "Sasha," "Richard," "The Fire," and "Justice." By investigating the lives of these two teens, their backgrounds, their friends and families, and the circumstances that led to that fateful day on the bus, Slater offers readers a grounded and balanced view of a horrific event. There is much baked into the story of these intersecting lives that defies easy categorization, including explorations of gender identity, the racial and class divisions that separate two Oakland neighborhoods, the faults and limits of the justice system, the concept of restorative justice, and the breadth of human cruelty, guilt, and forgiveness. With clarity and a journalist's sharp eye for crucial details, Slater explains preferred pronouns; the difference between gender and sex as well as sexuality and romance; and the intricacies of California's criminal justice process. The text shifts from straightforward reporting to lyrical meditations, never veering into oversentimentality or simple platitudes. Readers are bound to come away with deep empathy for both Sasha and Richard. VERDICT Slater artfully unfolds a complex and layered tale about two teens whose lives intersect with painful consequences. This work will spark discussions about identity, community, and what it means to achieve justice.Kiera Parrott, School Library Journal
Starred Review for Kirkus Reviews
In the fall of 2013, on a bus ride home, a young man sets another student on fire.In a small private high school, Sasha, a white teen with Asperger's, enjoyed "a tight circle of friends," "blazed through calculus, linguistics, physics, and computer programming," and invented languages. Sasha didn't fall into a neat gender category and considered "the place in-between…a real place." Encouraged by parents who supported self-expression, Sasha began to use the pronoun they. They wore a skirt for the first time during their school's annual cross-dressing day and began to identify as genderqueer. On the other side of Oakland, California, Richard, a black teen, was "always goofing around" at a high school where roughly one-third of the students failed to graduate. Within a few short years, his closest friends would be pregnant, in jail, or shot dead, but Richard tried to stay out of real trouble. One fateful day, Sasha was asleep in a "gauzy white skirt" on the 57 bus when a rowdy friend handed Richard a lighter. With a journalist's eye for overlooked details, Slater does a masterful job debunking the myths of the hate-crime monster and the African-American thug, probing the line between adolescent stupidity and irredeemable depravity. Few readers will traverse this exploration of gender identity, adolescent crime, and penal racism without having a few assumptions challenged. An outstanding book that links the diversity of creed and the impact of impulsive actions to themes of tolerance and forgiveness. (Nonfiction. 14-18)
Voice of Youth Advocates
One fall day in 2013, Richard and Sasha were strangers taking the public bus home from school, as they had done many times before. This time, Richard’s friends convinced him that lighting Sasha’s gauzy skirt with a match would be funny. It was not, and both of their lives changed forever. In The 57 Bus, Slater comprehensively tells the stories of their pasts (Richard, a poor African-American from Oakland; Sasha, a well-to-do nonbinary teen with Asperger’s syndrome) and the legal issues that followed. The reader does not get to know Sarah deeply in this sprawling account, and that seems to be the intent, for she admits to wanting people to be “confused” by her, to be unable to understand her. Richard, meanwhile, a troubled teenager who does a stupid thing, is presented as a victim. Slater’s journalistic style and political bent keep the characters at a distance. The book’s first half examines each character’s upbringing, illustrating the childhoods of two very different people. The last half, concerning the legal machinations after the crime, demonstrates the author’s desire to create changes in American values and the criminal justice system. She does not present, however, the steps that might lead toward such changes. As a result, the book may provoke more anger and frustration than understanding. It is likely that this account will spark conversations, debates, and contemplation, perhaps leading readers to define for themselves what justice means. If readers remember this story and the two teens at the center of it, then The 57 Bus will create awareness about the important issues surrounding the event that day on the bus.—Jim Nicosia.
Word Count: 47,948
Reading Level: 6.5
Interest Level: 7-12
Accelerated Reader: reading level: 6.5 / points: 8.0 / quiz: 192475 / grade: Middle Grades+
Reading Counts!: reading level:6.6 / points:12.0 / quiz:Q72113
Lexile: 930L

This riveting book about race, class, gender, crime, and punishment tells the true story of an agender teen who was set on fire by another teen while riding a bus in Oakland, California.


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