Penguin/Nancy Paulsen. Jan. 2023. 144p. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780593323793.
G. 5 Up–Maldonado’s latest tells a story many middle grade kids will have an immediate personal connection to: shouldering adult problems and taking them on as their own. Trev is scared after his abusive stepfather is sent back to jail and tries to prepare for the man’s imminent release by learning to box so he can defend himself and his family by fighting with his hands. Trev is a gifted artist and is constantly being told by the adults around him that he has promise and a future; fighting is not intuitive to him. He dreams of taking his mother and sisters away from the projects to a place that he will not have to “throw hands” as a method of defense. Maldonado’s story moves quickly, but it packs a punch with a rapidly progressing plot and short chapters. Tweens will appreciate the tight prose. When the novel concludes, readers will feel a sense of the real community Trev has beyond his immediate family. They will also appreciate the complex supporting characters and feel hopeful for Trev’s future. Those who have enjoyed Maldonado’s earlier books as well as fans of Jason Reynolds “Track” series will love this one too.
VERDICT This is an absolute must-have for every middle grade library collection.

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