Darius & Twig

208p. HarperCollins/Amistad. 2013. Tr $17.99. ISBN 978-0-06-172823-5; PLB $18.89. ISBN 978-0-06-172824-2; ebook $10.99. ISBN 978-0-06-220925-2. LC 2012050678.
Gr 8 Up—In New York City's Harlem neighborhood, two high school friends approach graduation with different dreams. Narrator Darius knows it takes more than a high school diploma to have the life he wants and, despite mediocre grades, develops his creative fiction for publication in the Delta Review, boosting his hopes for a college scholarship. His best friend Manuel Fernandez, or "Twig," is a long-distance runner looking ahead only as far as the next race. Along with a high grade-point average, Twig has the athleticism to catch the attention of college scouts in the big race but is being pressured to quit the track team and work in his uncle's bodega. Both boys face daily run-ins with Tall Boy and Midnight, two classmates with rap sheets and vengeful thug behavior. Ultimately, Darius and Twig learn of a shooting and are faced with the moral dilemma of coming to the aid of their tormentors. The portrayal of Harlem is realistic and nuanced, describing the sweetness of the neighborhood vibe and its friendly and supportive adults while also showing animosity among ethnic enclaves, and random violence. Darius's alter ego, Fury the peregrine falcon, appears at the beginning of some chapters as both guardian and predator above the city streets. An unfinished story about a boy testing his limits by swimming with dolphins comes to a poignant conclusion, as Darius similarly overcomes his own obstacles. Less gritty than many of Myers's titles, this book will satisfy his legions of fans.—Vicki Reutter, Cazenovia High School, NY
Featuring an engaging narrative voice and a compelling, panoramic depiction of a Harlem, New York, neighborhood, Darius & Twig is trademark Walter Dean Myers. Darius, a contemplative teen with literary aspirations, and Twig, a happy-go-lucky track star, have a sweet, genuine friendship and an enjoyable rapport. And in a refreshing take, Myers draws dramatic tension from the strength of their friendship in the face of outside challenges, rather than telling the more familiar tale of troubled friends who grow apart. One of Myers’s great talents is his ability to explore a broad range of sometimes-weighty themes in an accessible way. Here, Darius and Twig’s struggles with bullying and their individual quests to succeed outside Harlem spark illuminating dialogue and internal monologues on the meaning of happiness and the role of choice and fate in people’s lives. The novel concludes on a realistic yet hopeful note. Readers will come away from the book with much to ponder.

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