Monday, October 25, 2010

Lockdown by Walter Dean Myers

This is the third of Kathleen's reviews of the 2010 National Book Award finalists in Young People's Literature.

I had never read anything by Walter Dean Myers before, despite his award-winning status, so I really had no idea what to expect from Lockdown.

This book took me into another world, but not a fantasy, sci-fi, or dystopian post-apocalyptic world. It's the world of a juvenile detention center, and a world where violence, drug use and drug-dealing are common. And yes, it is also a world of mostly non-white people.

The blurb says "Lockdown explores an unlikely friendship between fourteen-year-old Progress inmate Reese and a man he meets through his work program at a local senior citizens’ home. " However, this is only part of the story. Myers shows us the violence inside the detention center, the cluelessness, cynicism, and cruelty of several adults there, and the cycle that keeps so many detainees coming back into the prison system.

Reese matures in this book, but at a reasonable pace. He starts figuring out what he needs to do to stay straight on the outside, but he doesn't have it all together by the end of the book. And he makes plenty of mistakes throughout.

Interestingly, the adults in the book grow, too. Mr. Hooft at the senior citizens' home at first fears Reese, because he is African American and an inmate, but learns to accept him and perhaps call him friend. Mr. Pugh, a guard, is a bully at first, but becomes friendlier later. And other adults who seem to think there's no hope for Reese begin to come around, too. I think this adds a lot to the book.

Lockdown is rich with detail and action. When I finished reading it, I actually went straight back to the beginning and read the first few chapters over again, because I felt like I hadn't gotten everything out of them the first time. If I didn't have several more books to read, I might have read it straight through again!

I think this book might be a keeper -- I'd like to read it again and get to know it better. Definitely award-worthy.

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