Promise Boys

Holt. Jan. 2023. 304p. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9781250866974.
Gr 9 Up–Urban Promise Prep School, an all-boys school in Washington, DC, aims to combat the challenges of urban education with structure and discipline. The so-called “Moore method,” named after Principal Kenneth Moore, does not allow phones, talking, or even laughing during the school day. While outsiders may see Promise’s graduation rates and think it a success, those on the inside see the cracks forming long before the novel’s inciting incident—the murder of Principal Moore, who is shot after school during a basketball game. Three boys, J.B., Trey, and Ramón, who were unsupervised in detention at the time of the murder, become the prime suspects. Though each boy has his own potential motive, each claims innocence and must fight to prove it before they become victims of a system that often unfairly punishes young men of color. Brooks builds suspense in the novel through changing time lines and narrators, along with short chapters that leave readers wanting more. Despite of the quick pace, the character development is solid; readers get to know each of the three boys, as well as a compelling cast of secondary characters, well.
VERDICT With social justice themes, relatable teenage protagonists, and a satisfying conclusion, this is an essential purchase for teen collections.

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