Thursday, December 15, 2011

Rikers High by Paul Volponi

What does a typical day look like for the hundreds of teens awaiting sentencing on Rikers Island? What happens behind all that barbed wire and security? Our students are understandably curious, and this book, while fictional, paints a picture of one teen’s experience. The main character is Martin Stokes, a seventeen year-old who has never before been in any real trouble, and he has recently been arrested for a “bubblegum charge” -- he was taken in by an undercover police officer for “steering” him to buy drugs in the neighborhood. While on Rikers, Martin witnesses and is the victim of extreme violence, is forced to attend school, and tries his best in the midst of all this to figure out a plan to survive the system and get released. Luckily, Martin has a strong head on his shoulders, clear vision, and a supportive family at home.

Our students are certainly able to relate to Martin’s feelings of just trying to get through the day, of being frustrated with the justice system, and of being homesick. They are huge fans of many of Paul Volponi’s books, and in the last couple of weeks, two of our high school classes have been reading Rikers High in preparation for a Skype meeting with the author. --Anja Kennedy

No comments: