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Thursday, July 19, 2012

Down - Mark Adam Kaplan

Released May 2012

Mark Adam Kaplan
BeWrite Books

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

If I can be honest for a moment, I wasn't sure about Down. I read the premise and it didn't sound like something I'd love. I owe Mark Adam Kaplan an apology. From the first page, I was hooked.

Leon Mendoza is in trouble. Involved with a gang, he ends up arrested for drugs and facing time in jail. He has one last chance if he can keep his nose clean, attend school regularly, and keep his job at a local Chinese restaurant.

There are a few problems with this. His ankle monitor makes him a target at school. Being that he's Hispanic, the Asian gangs near the restaurant where he works won't give him a moment's peace, and his mom's really of little use when it comes to helping him stay out of trouble. With his dad in jail, she expects Leon to bring home the money.

Determined to improve his life, Leon attempts what seems impossible. He gets his grades up, does as his probation officer says, but his accomplishments seem overshadowed by the world around him. The question becomes how does such a young boy survive poverty and the world around him?

I have to approach this story as an adult. While it is a young adult fiction offering, it's the mom in me that was most impacted by Leon's story. I know there are children like that all over the country, and frankly, it pisses me off. Why have children if you have no intention on being a parent?

Down is very powerful. I was rooting for Leon from the start. The more I read, the angrier I became. I was fuming with all this kid had to face, and his mother's idiotic behavior, the laws that keep parole officers from really doing what they know needs to be done, and the general consensus that once a kid is trouble, they'll always be trouble.

Given that, my kudos go out to the author for telling Leon's story honestly. It's not always pretty, and it certainly doesn't always seem fair, but sadly that's just how the system is set up.

1 comment:

  1. It's difficult to specify a 'target-age readership' for *Down*, Tracy. It defies such simplistic classification. And that, I believe, is its strength. In your case, Leon's tale seems to have inspired sympathy, understanding, fury and frustration. If it conjures such strong reaction, constructive thought, perhaps a shift in attitude, I guess it does the job Mark set out to do. Best wishes. Neil