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Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Compelling Antihero Saves Plotless Lockdown

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

"I was innocent, but it didn't matter if the police said I was guilty. Soon as the jury looked over and saw you sitting at the defendant's table, they figured you must have done something" (199).

What does it feel like to be caged up 24/7? To have someone watching your every move, just waiting for you to screw up? Ask 14-year-old Reese Anderson. He landed at Progress (the county's flowery euphemism for Juvie) after stealing prescription pads from a doctor's office and selling them to a known drug dealer. Now, all he wants to do is bust out, be free. He knows a guy like him, a guy living in a crap neighborhood with druggies and gangbangers hanging on every corner, has a decent chance of ending up right back in the slammer, but he thinks maybe, just maybe, he can beat the statistics. Even if he is a lost cause, his little sister - smart, ambitious Icy - is not. She needs him. First, though, he's got to get out of Progress. That means no fights, no back talk, total cooperation. It won't be easy.
Working at a senior citizen's center a couple times a week gives Reese a tiny taste of freedom. When he meets Mr. Hooft, a cantakerous white man who peppers every sentence with "you people," Reese learns that he's not the only one on lockdown. Their unlikely friendship only deepens Reese's yearning for escape, his desire for a better life.

Lockdown, the newest YA novel by Water Dean Myers (available today), tells the story of this compelling young anti-hero. It's a story about boys living hardscrabble lives on the mean streets of New York. It's a story about where they end up, living out their young lives caged up like animals. Most of all, it's a story about making mistakes and paying for them - with your life and your future. Reese is one of those characters that make you believe in second chances, in starting over, in making it when all of the odds are against you. It's because his voice is so strong, so heartbreakingly honest, that I kept reading this book. Otherwise, I might have grown irritated with the story - it's largely plotless, basically just recounting the tedious bleakness of jail life. Lockdown provides an interesting glimpse into a world I've never experienced, but without any real conflict-climax-resolution, it's not much of a story.
All in all, I think Lockdown's an okay book. I can see young males flocking to it, largely because Reese's voice is so true. Myers doesn't glamorize street life, Juvie life, or gang involvement, but he discusses it honestly as a reality plenty of kids face. He offers hope without being sentimental or corny. I enjoy his writing, I just wish this book had a little more story, a bit more plot. As is, it gets a little choppy, monotonous, and tiring. Even though I found Lockdown, my first Myers book, disappointing, I'm not through with him. I spy a Monster in my immediate future.
Grade: C
If this were a movie, it would be rated: PG-13 for language, racial slurs, and adult themes/situations
To the FTC, with love: I received this ARC from the generous folks over at HarperTeen. Thanks!


  1. I never really thought about the plot (or lack thereof) in the way that you mentioned it, but now that you have, I totally agree. I really liked the overall story, but not a whole lot happened. Maybe it was the main character, like you said, or the way Myers wrote that captured me.

  2. This sounds like something I'd enjoy. I read a memoir by this author once, and I really liked it. And I don't mind little plot in a character driven book if the character is compelling. Thanks for the review!


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