Your Corner Dark by Desmond Hall

  Your Corner Dark by Desmond Hall, Atheneum/Simon & Schuster, 9781534460713, 2021 

Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 3

Format: ARC

Genre: Realistic fiction

What did you like about the book?  Frankie Green’s senior year of high school and his dream of escaping Jamaica to become an engineer come to a screeching halt when his father is shot at an outdoor celebration. Forced to borrow treatment money from his uncle Joe, a Rastafarian and head of a local posse, Frankie must offer himself as collateral and join the violent world of drugs and guns that his father had struggled to keep at bay. Meanwhile, a new love interest, Leah, holds out a tantalizing promise of a different and better future. Can Frankie escape? 

This book has a lot of action and drama; in fact, John Wick (as in the movie, starring Keanu Reeves) comes to mind and is referenced by the posse members. Bullets fly, cars careen, and numerous crimes are committed although Frankie’s complex feelings toward his uncle, Aunt Jenny, his father and his late mother are handled with sensitivity and realism. In addition, the book manages to convey an authentic sense of place, with its vivid descriptions of Jamaican food and daily life and the frank explorations of the wide gulf between the country’s haves and have-nots. 

Anything you didn’t like about it? Many teen readers will not have enough content knowledge to figure out what’s going on in the book and Hall doesn’t supply the information. Who are the Rastafarians and what’s the relationship between the posse, the religious/political movement, and the use of marijuana? What about the political unrest and the established political parties’ manipulation of the criminal gangs that Hall hints at? I also wondered if the book, in presenting a realistic yet atypical experience, reinforces negative stereotypes?  Unfortunately, the crime drama overpowers some of the more interesting plot elements, for example, Frankie’s complicated feelings for his father, or his Aunt Jenny’s torn loyalties. And Leah takes on some maddening manic, pixie, dream-girl qualities that reduce her to a one-dimensional character. 

To whom would you recommend this book?  Older students or adult readers who like thrillers with violence and danger. The book has a lot of gore, drinking, and marijuana use.

Who should buy this book? High school or public libraries.

Where would you shelve it? YA fiction

Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? No

Reviewer: Susan Harari, Keefe Library, Boston Latin School, Boston, MA

Date of review: November 8, 2020

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