The itch starts when things get too heavy for Lil J. Skin popping or stealing pain pills from his mom help him relax. But Lil J's focus is wandering because money is short, and his man Rico knows a way to make some quick cash. It's supposed to be an easy deal, but it isn't so simple when the buyer is an undercover cop.
With a gunshot wound to the arm, Rico in jail, and a police officer clinging to life, Lil J is starting to get dope sick. He'd do anything to change the last twenty-four hours, and when he stumbles into an abandoned crack house, it actually might be possible. . . .
Walter Dean Myers weaves elements of magical realism into a harrowing story about drug use, violence, alternate perceptions of reality, and second chances.
Using both harsh realism and a dose of the fantastic, Myers (Game ) introduces an inner-city teen in the jaws of a crisis: 17-year-old Lil J is holed up in an abandoned building, believed to have shot an undercover cop in a drug bust, while police officers assemble in the street below. As he searches for a way out, Lil J is stopped by Kelly, an eerily calm vagrant who invites him to "cop a squat and check yourself out on the tube." Kelly's TV not only plays scenes from Lil J's life but projects what will happen if he sticks with his current plan: suicide. Shocked, Lil J considers Kelly's question, "If you could take back one thing you did... what would it be?" Aided by Kelly's TV, Lil J revisits pivotal moments and wrestles with his fate. As expected, Myers uses street-style lingo to cover Lil J's sorry history of drug use, jail time, irresponsible fatherhood and his own childhood grief. A didn't-see-that-coming ending wraps up the story on a note of well-earned hope and will leave readers with plenty to think about. Ages 14-up. (Feb.)
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January 31, 2009
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