Initial reaction: Probably somewhere between 4 and 4.5 stars. I'm not sure, I don't think I've quite recovered from the ending and how the book really took a dark turn after some time, though it was dark to begin with in this story of a boy who was caught in a very tough lifestyle, made terrible choices, had some glimmer of hope in stages, but ultimately...no, I think I'll leave that for my extended review.
I thought this book was very well done. Really wish I'd read it sooner.
I think even after days of finishing this novel, I'm still torn from Shawn Goodman's "Kindness for Weakness." It's a story of a 15-year old boy named James who comes from an abusive household where his stepfather hits him, his mother doesn't do enough for him, and the only solaces he has in his relationships are from his English teacher, who believes in his ability to excel, and his older brother, who makes a living from selling drugs. After a particular run that stems from the product of misinterpretation, James ends up in Juvie with a lively group for company, including a black gay teen named Freddie who becomes his closest friend in the area. The story then explores James trying to navigate the system and better himself while inside it, but while there may be hope on some levels within it, there's also a darkness that lingers throughout James's experience, ultimately coming to a head in the conclusion of the work that doesn't pull punches.
I definitely appreciated the realistic portrayal of James' life through the narrative, the prose flows so well and linear - Goodman does an excellent job of navigating the measure of abuse, helplessness and yet kindness that makes James's character unique and identifiable. Granted, the fact that he doesn't do more to defend himself may wear on some, but it's an apt expansion for a boy who doesn't feel like he has many options but tries to make the most of the situations that he's in. He looks out for others where they may not look out for him, but at the same time, you see his rises and falls with the context of the situations he's in, and it makes his character and the actions put against him and those he's around that much more vivid. I really think this is a novel that will resonate with those of its respective audience and beyond, and I would highly recommend the read.
Overall score: 4/5
Note: I received this as an ARC from NetGalley, from the publisher Random House/Delacorte Books for Young Readers.