These reviews have been copied from the New York Public Library’s Website – http://www.nypl.org
PW Reviews 2009 June #1
The author presents an authentic and tender story about a boy trying to cope after years of sexual abuse. Diego’s stepfather molested and raped Diego for years—something Diego alone knows, now that his stepfather has committed suicide. To deal with his anger and pain, Diego cuts himself with a sharp shark’s tooth and strikes out violently against his peers, landing him in court. Only when he is paired with a sympathetic probation officer can Diego finally admit his secret. Teens may find the shark metaphor that runs through Diego’s dream life heavy-handed, but Sanchez (The God Box) does a masterful job explaining the protagonist’s complicated emotions as he deals with his past. He worries that the abuse will turn him into a molester or make him gay—and he is angry and afraid when he finds out that the probation officer he trusted is gay. He even feels grief when he finally is able to say good-bye to the stepfather who abused him. All in all, this is a careful examination of a much neglected topic. Ages 12–up. (June)
[Page 49]. Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.
School Library Journal
SLJ Reviews 2009 July
Gr 7 Up–Diego MacMann is in trouble. At 16, he faces juvenile court, charged with assault. He just can’t control his fists, especially when he feels that his masculinity is threatened. Anger-management classes have failed, and now this earnest young man teeters between self-loathing and defensive pride. Hope comes unexpectedly when he establishes a bond with Mr. Vidas. The probation officer asks questions that challenge Diego to examine his motivations and his emotional life. How does he feel about his absent birth father? The stepfather who committed suicide? The gay student who looked at him “that way” just before Diego punched him out? The third-person narrative keeps readers one step ahead of Diego as he unravels the effects of abandonment, poverty, and sexual abuse on himself and his struggling family. During the short sessions with Mr. Vidas, he finds some of the tools and insights he needs to navigate his rocky passage to maturity. Unlike most recent fiction that addresses sexual abuse, this story focuses not on the telling of secrets, but on making sense of the experience and building a healthy foundation for moving forward. This groundbreaking novel brings to life an appealing young man who is neither totally a victim nor a victimizer, one who struggles to handle conflicts that derail many young lives. Teens will identify with Diego’s dreams and frustrations, his feeling of difference, his yearning for “normal” life and relationships. High interest and accessible, this coming-of-age story belongs in every collection. For the one in six boys who is sexually abused, it could be a lifesaver.–Carolyn Lehman, Humboldt State University, Arcata, CA
[Page 92]. Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.
Booklist Reviews 2009 May #2
“After his explosive anger lands him in court, Diego is assigned a sympathetic parole officer, Mr. Vidas, who doesn’t really have time on his overbooked caseload for a relatively low-risk kid like Diego, who behaves at home, helps his younger brother, and gets good grades. Something in Diego’s desperation wins Vidas over, though. Acting more as counselor than PO (Sanchez has experience as both), Vidas uncovers the story of sexual abuse that Diego suffered from his stepdad (who recently committed suicide) and guides him through the morass of feelings to a chance at healing. The narrative feels instructive, but the awareness and advice it brings are welcome. Diego’s aquarium hobby fits nicely with the metaphor of the shark dreams that haunt him throughout his recovery, and stereotypes about homosexuality are dispelled through several minor subplots. The details of the abuse are clear but not overly graphic, and middle-school libraries should not shy away from purchasing this book on a subject that so many of their students are facing.” Copyright 2009 Booklist Reviews.
The Horn Book
Horn Book Guide Reviews 2009 Fall
Anger overwhelms sixteen-year-old Diego, who is assigned to a probation officer after punching a gay classmate. In their meetings, Diego confronts the painful memories of being sexually abused by his now-deceased stepfather. Despite an overly neat resolution and some cliched dialogue, this sensitive (at times graphic) portrayal of a young man’s struggle to overcome deep-seated trauma is profoundly affecting. Copyright 2009 Horn Book Guide Reviews.
Voice of Youth Advocates Reviews
VOYA Reviews 2009 August
Diego MacMann is a good student, but he has a temper he cannot control. When he assaults another student, he lands in court. He is assigned a probation officer, Mr. Vidas. Something about the way Mr. Vidas looks at him allows Diego to trust him. After discovering that Mr. Vidas wants to recommend a suspended sentence, Diego goes against legal advice and requests to be placed on probation in order to retain him as his probation officer. In their weekly meetings, they explore the causes of Diego’s anger, his obsession with self-mutilation, and his suicidal tendencies. Slowly Diego learns that if he is ever to take control of his life, he must deal with the abuse he suffered at the hands of his stepfather Sanchez’s novel unfolds slowly, layer by layer. Although more sophisticated readers might see the signs of abuse early on, for many younger readers the cause of Diego’s anger is revealed as Diego puts the pieces together. The description of the abuse does not pull any punches. Mr. Vidas forces Diego to face what has happened. The subject matter and descriptions are graphic, in keeping with the events that have taken place; however, the novel’s emphasis is on trust, dealing with trauma, learning to love, and rebuilding one’s life. Although this novel will not appeal to every reader, for those trying to understand traumatic events in their life or the lives of others, it has much to offer.—Christine Sanderson 4Q 4P J S Copyright 2009 Voya Reviews.