African-Americans--Fiction Friendship--Fiction Middle School Stories (Grades 5-9)

Choices: Tight by Torrey Maldonado

I have questions I should ask. Why you look so relaxed hopping that turnstile? What do you think would’ve happened if cops caught us?

But I don’t ask. Those questions might make me look soft. Our train pulls out.

What we just did was crazy. And fun.

Bryan usually spends his after-school hours at his mom’s office in the Community Center,doing homework and drawing superheroes, and when his mother suggests that he hang out with one of her clients, Mike, Bryan is uncomfortable. She says Mike is polite and makes good grades, but something about Mike seems edgy to Bryan. But his drawings of Flash and Black Panther are great, and soon Bryan and Mike are hanging out playing video games and calling each other “brother.”

But things start to go south when Mike begins to dare him to do things he doesn’t want to do–throwing rocks at cars from the roof of their building, forging a note from his mother so they can skip school, ducking the turnstile at the subway station, and “train surfing,” hanging on to the back of a train for thrills. But when Bryan protests, Mike calls him “soft” and “Mama’s Boy,” but after they get a younger boy caught going under the turnstile, Bryan sees that things are heading in a dangerous direction.

And when Mike taunts him in front of his classmates, Bryan explodes in rage and beats Mike up. But Bryan realizes that this behavior is what keeps his own father in and out of jail.

I feel alone in all this craziness. Craziness I let myself get into for months. I feel like I can’t talk to anyone. I hate it.

Bryan turns to his mom.

“You have choices,” she says. “You can choose different reactions. You can choose different friends and different ideas of fun.”

Widening choices and at-odds loyalties make early adolescence a hard time to navigate, and Torrey Maldonado’s newest, Tight (Nancy Paulsen Books, 2018), is a novel which offers a realistic view of the pressures from peers and parents and offers some ways to sort out the choices for dealing with them, thanks to a family that is working them out with him. A serious read for boys moving into the wider world and looking for values that work. Adds Kirkus, “Readers will be rooting for Bryan to make the right choices even as they understand the wrong ones.”

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