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Ten Mile River


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Griffin makes a striking debut with this gritty, dialogue-heavy novel about two homeless boys. Ray and Jose, 14 and 15, have survived foster care and juvenile detention together, and now hide out from their parole officers in a burned-out stationhouse in New York City's Ten Mile River park. They make their way by stealing, working occasionally, and trying to stay under police radar. Ray is bigger and smarter (he reads anything he can, and especially likes physics), but Jose, "a proven matador," is boss. They are "friends to the end"--until Ray meets and falls for the beautiful Trini, who encourages both boys to go straight, like her. But Ray's view of himself and his understanding of loyalty also leads him to set up Trini with Jose. As Griffin illuminates Ray's often dangerous world, readers will feel for themselves Ray's dilemma and the difficulties he faces in choosing between Jose, drawn to the fast buck, and his own desires to make something of himself. The language is tough but convincing, the setting authentic, the characters memorable and their struggles played out with a complexity that respects the audience's intelligence. Ages 12-up. (June) Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.

Gr 8 Up-Despite his intimidating build, 14-year-old Ray is a tongue-tied, sensitive street kid with a penchant for reading anything and everything, from Scientific American to Siddhartha. After a stint in juvie, he and his best pal, reckless and charming Jose, are "on their own and on the run." The teens squat in an old railway stationhouse by Ten Mile River in a wooded area of New York City, stealing what they need to survive and pulling small jobs for extra cash. When they befriend a girl and her hairdresser aunt, they have the chance to make a clean living, but their choices are complicated by their loyalty to one another. Like the works of Adam Rapp and K. L. Going, Griffin's novel is introspective street lit, an illumination of petty crime and parentless childhoods that's more gritty than glamorous. The realistic dialogue, which is often quite graphic and filled with sexual innuendo, propels the plot, and the author specializes in capturing the vernacular: "Psh, I'd go behind m' boy's back like that? Psh, insultin me, man." The boys come to life on the pages, as does their relationship, and their conversations are often laugh-out-loud funny. Though the threat of violence looms through most of the book, the author doesn't quite evoke the shock or fear he's going for. Still, the plot defies predictions, and some memorable scenes and the strongly drawn characters lift the story above other urban tales of woe. Fans of Paul Volponi, take note.-Emily R. Brown, Providence Public Library, RI Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.

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