Frankie looks up to his older brother Steve. Steve seems to have it all — he’s an excellent soccer player and is more than likely going to get a scholarship to college because of it, he’s smart, he’s cute, and he could get any girl he wants. Sure, Frankie and Steve’s parents seem to be a bit lax with Steve because he does so well with soccer and school, and sure they don’t make Steve work in the family’s restaurant like they do Frankie, but Frankie doesn’t resent that too much. Recently, though, Steve has changed some, just little things. He’s started hanging out with the cholos, a local gang, specifically Flaco, the gang’s leader. Steve doesn’t come home much anymore, just stops by for food, he sneaks out at night and doesn’t come back until early morning, and he begins dating a girl that you would not take home to meet the parents. At first, Frankie doesn’t think too much about these changes and even relishes the respect he gets through association with his older brother, but Steve also begins to become harder, quicker to temper, a bit more violent, and has odd ideas about what earns respect. The more Steve changes, the less Frankie continues to idolize his brother. Who is this person Steve has turned into and is there anything left in him that Frankie can look up to?
Reaction: I thought this book was really well done. While the heart of the story is Frankie and Steve’s relationship, most of the book is simply about Frankie trying to survive high school. It’s Frankie hanging out with his bestfriend, blowing stuff up in his bestfriend’s backyard. It’s crushing on a girl he’s been friends with forever and trying to get up the nerve to ask her out. It’s dealing with the fact that he isn’t too fond of working at his parent’s restaurant but also isn’t so pleased when they sell it without consulting him. It’s teenage Frankie living. But all the while, Steve is changing and Frankie doesn’t see it at first. Frankie knows Steve is probably doing things he shouldn’t and at first it’s just a bit aggravating — like the way his parents are always asking Frankie to narc on Steve but then never actually punish Steve — or funny — like when Steve brings home the girlfriend that no one in their right mind would bring home to meet the parents and their parents freak out. When Steve finally convices Frankie to do something illegal with him for the sake of their family’s honor, Frankie isn’t so sure Steve is really all that great anymore. The slow build of Frankie’s change in his feelings toward his brother is subtly and wonderfully done. This is a great teen boy book and a great book about how any teen, no matter how smart or how good the family situation, can get dragged into a bad situation.