Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Review: Response

Paul Volponi
Penguin; 2009; 978-0-670-06283-6 (hardcover)

Summary: Noah and his friends have a simple plan: go into Hillsboro, steal a car, sell it to a chop shop, and pocket some cash. But even a simple plan doesn't always work. And while they're trying to figure out what to do, some white guys aren't too happy to see three black guys in their neighborhood. So they chase Noah and his friends. And one of the white guys has a baseball bat . . .

This slim novel has a lot to say. There's been so much discussion about race in the last year, in large part due to the presidential election, that it's easy to forget that racism is a serious problem in the United States. However, Response shows that even big problems still come down to people. At first after his beating, Noah is scared of white people, prone to believing the worst. Yet he slowly realizes that how he chooses to respond matters more than other people's actions.

Along the way, the reader gets a chance to see other perspectives, with dialogue from Noah's attacker and newspaper articles. These moments, reminiscent of Walter Dean Myers' Monster, help us see just how much Noah changes for the better as the result of the attack--and how much his attacker remains the same.

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