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Series: Gravel Road   

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Annotation: TJ returns to live with his mother, who has stopped using drugs, after two years in a loving home, and finds that he can't escape the seedy environment of his hometown or past debts still owed.
Catalog Number: #5250523
Format: Paperback
All Formats: Search
Special Formats: High Low High Low
Common Core/STEAM: Common Core Common Core
Copyright Date: 2012
Edition Date: 2012
Pages: 197 pages
Availability: Available
ISBN: 1-616-51792-1
ISBN 13: 978-1-616-51792-2
Dewey: Fic
Dimensions: 18 cm.
Language: English
Kirkus Reviews
In an unnamed city, the son of drug-addicted parents finds a loving foster home, then loses everything. Part of the publisher's Gravel Road line, which produces a junior version of "urban street lit" aimed at reluctant readers, the book is attractively packaged with a photographic cover, a small trim and plenty of white space on its pages. Sentences are short and vocabulary simple, but narrator TJ's voice is expressive, even though some complexity is sacrificed to move the story forward. TJ's ambivalence toward his family is clear from the first evocative scene, in which a fight between 5-year-old TJ and his father ends in laughter. His relationship to the Hillside Vipers, a gang that recruits TJ when he is 13, also rings true: TJ joins the gang because he is afraid not to. The emotional center of the book is Miss Dixie, the boundlessly warm proprietor of a group home where TJ lives after the state separates him from his family. Although the redemptive relationships TJ builds at Miss Dixie's are compelling, Miss Dixie's promise that TJ "will always have a place here" seems hard to believe, given how many young people need foster care. Despite a few oversimplifications, this is a thoughtful and accessible story about the many meanings--positive and negative--of family. (Fiction. 12-15)
School Library Journal
Gr 7 Up&12; Ever since he was a little boy, TJ knew that he had to act out to get his parents' attention. Now, as a teenager, he starts skipping school to hang out with the Hillside Vipers. Then, after his father dies of a drug overdose, TJ is taken away from his mother and sent to a foster home. Miss Dixie is extremely caring, and, after a short period of struggle, TJ becomes close to his foster siblings and adjusts to his new school. After two years pass, his mother is clean, so he must leave Miss Dixie's home and return to his side of town to finish high school. In doing so, TJ is back on the Vipers' radar and forced to act like an aspiring member of the gang. Eventually, he realizes that his life is in his own hands and that his choices are his and his alone. Readers will be pleased to see TJ return to Miss Dixie's and move on with his life in a positive way. This novel delivers a strong message without being preachy. Although the ending may seem a bit sugarcoated, it is uplifting and motivating. A good, positive choice for hi/lo readers.&12; Lindsay Klemas, JM Rapport School for Career Development, Bronx, NY
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Kirkus Reviews
School Library Journal (Thu Mar 01 00:00:00 CST 2012)
ALA/YALSA Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers
Starred Review ALA Booklist
Word Count: 25,923
Reading Level: 3.2
Interest Level: 9-12
Accelerated Reader: reading level: 3.2 / points: 3.0 / quiz: 149803 / grade: Upper Grades
Reading Counts!: reading level:3.3 / points:9.0 / quiz:Q58833
Lexile: HL400L

Theme: Hi-lo, Young Adult, teen, realistic fiction, drug use, foster care, gangs. After two years in a loving home, TJ's mother got him back. She was clean. No pot. No meth. His chest felt like it was burning. His heart was racing. Trapped. He felt trapped. He didn't have a say. Everything he had come to care about would be gone: Miss Dixie, hot meals, friends, Mae's little hand, and Annabelle. And the brutal life he'd escaped quickly reclaimed him. Kaden Cruz didn't run after him. Instead his voice boomed, "You owe us." TJ didn't look back. But he knew this wasn't the end of Kaden Cruz. He could still hear his father's voice. "It's not free. You'll have to pay them back one day." Silver medal winner of an Independent Publishers Book Award. Hard-hitting, contemporary young adult fiction is not trendyit's not dystopia. There are no vampires, no werewolves, no castles. It's real life. It's unflinching. Gravel Road highlights the talent of YA authors committed to creating realistic fiction with emotional authenticity. No topic is off-limits: suicide, homosexuality, drugs, rape, gangs, bullying. Teens live with this reality each day. And they find a way to survive. Each paperback book is 116 to 268 pages.

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