Friday, May 25, 2012
L.B. Tillit's Unchained, part of the Gravel Road series, is simplistically written to appeal to reluctant readers and is filled with raw emotion. I know I won't have any problem getting my 8th graders to check this out. "I wasn't born mean." is the first sentence of the book. The story is narrated by TJ – a broken boy who is a product of his hopeless circumstances and neglectful upbringing. TJ explains why he is who he is and describes how he has slowly gotten involved with the wrong crowd on the north side of town. When his father dies suddenly, TJ is taken away from his mother and sent to live with a caring foster mom in the south side of the city. His mother cannot have him back until she is clean from drugs. Although TJ is at first resentful of his new situation with his new brothers and sisters, he quickly thrives and learns how being loved is supposed to feel. Two years pass and his mother is supposedly ready to get him back. TJ has to leave the only safe environment he has ever known. Once back in his old neighborhood, he is forced to go back to the gang who took care of him before his father’s death. Everything falls apart and TJ finds himself in the crossfire of gang activity . This book really made me think about kids who are sent back to biological parents, hopeless situations, and dangerous neighborhoods – things are beyond their control. How do they survive it? I couldn’t put this book down and the kids won’t be able to either. It is a mature book – 8th grade and up.