Monday, January 26, 2015

Retaliation: A Novel --by Yasmin Shiraz

fiction / modern, urban  

264 pages / 1043 KB
5 Stars

Oliver Wendell Holmes once said something to the effect of, "A person's mind, once stretched by a new idea, never regains its original dimensions." My mind has been so stretched by reading this book.

To get the legalities out of the way, I was given a free copy of Retaliation in exchange for my honest review, which follows.

This is not a book I would have picked up on my own to read, the title did not sound appealing, but it fit the story perfectly; I live about as far from DC as I can get while still being in the Lower Forty-Eight; I live in a relatively peaceful neighborhood totally opposite of Tashera Odom and her neighbors. In short, I had nothing in common with the protagonist; however, by the end of the book, I found I had much in common with her.

Tashera is a good girl, she has seen gang violence up close and personal, and wants nothing to do with it. Her older brother is in a wheel chair because of gang violence.  So when she is jumped on the way home from school by three girls she doesn't know for a reason she doesn't understand, and is put in the hospital with serious injuries, it comes as a total shock.

This beating is the center part of the book, and how all the people in the book look and react at it. Her mother seeks retaliation immediately, rather than let the cops handle it. Her brother puts his old gang on it, and finds out who the girls are. Her boyfriend realizes his part in the beat down due to his past actions (which, by the way, describe today's rape culture very well, and the way it is accepted by way too many people. I think Ms. Shiraz has another book to write with Ahmed as the central character.) The three girls recognize their part and guilt.

There are many characters in here, each deals with the beating and the aftermath in their own, and believable, way. This is a story of mothers who love their children, and mothers who don't; of children who commit atrocities, and are faced with the consequences. It is a story of family—family of blood, family of proximity, family of neighborhood, family of violence.

There are times when the story jumps from one place to another, but the visual clues that a jump has arrived "*****" makes it easy for the reader to make the transition. The ending of the story is satisfactory, everyone gets their just desserts and recognizes their part in the drama. The ending of the book is more than satisfactory, as Ms. Shiraz has a section of Making Peace: Tips on Conflict Management with not only tips on conflict resolution, but information of where to find help if you're caught in a situation where you need it. There is also a Discussion and Bookclub Questions and finally a section on Questions with the Author.

An excellent book on a tough topic, and I highly recommend it for anyone who is in high school, for any parent who has a child in, or entering, high school, whether you live in an area of gang violence or not, and for all you teachers out there. This book would make a great reading and discussion assignment. Copies should be in every High School Library in the country.

Hollywood! Pay attention. This book will make a great movie!

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