GOODMAN, Shawn. Kindness for Weakness. 272p. Delacorte. 2013. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-0-385-74324-2; PLB $19.99. ISBN 978-0-375-99102-8; ebook $10.99. ISBN 978-0-307-98207-0.
Gr 8 Up–In this gut-wrenching narrative of loneliness and anger, disillusion and hope, 15-year-old James desperately wants to reconnect with his estranged older brother, Louis, and agrees to deliver drugs to several clients. When he is arrested, he is abandoned by Louis and sent to a juvenile detention facility where intimidation, abuse, and violence among guards and inmates are daily occurrences. As James struggles to find his own voice and reconcile his feelings about his negligent brother and mother, he begins to realize that everyone can make choices about how they live and treat others. James is comforted by letters from a favorite English teacher, reading Jack London’s The Sea Wolf, and the encouragement of a guard who teaches him to lift weights. In a climactic confrontation, he sheds his passive demeanor and attacks a cruel guard who is relentlessly punishing a gay inmate friend. In retaliation, James is brutally beaten by two guards. The unexpected intervention of a staff nurse brings paramedics who airlift James to a hospital and to a “second chance.” Despite the harsh, stark circumstances of his broken home and the upstate New York detention center, James becomes more than a survivor. His nonaggressive disposition provokes contempt but enables him to see more clearly vulnerabilities and injustices around him. Like Shavonne in Goodman’s Something Like Hope (Delacorte, 2010), James must set his own course in life and find supportive adults. Gripping action, gritty dialogue, vivid characters, and palpable tension permeate the brief chapters of James‘s powerful, honest, compelling narrative.–Gerry Larson, formerly at Durham School of the Arts, NC