Monday, December 8, 2014

How it Went Down by Kekla Magoon

Tariq, a sixteen-year-old African-American teen, goes to the store for his mother to buy some milk and picks up a Snickers bar for his little sister.  On his way home he is confronted by a neighbor who perceives that Tariq has a gun.  A third person, Jack Franklin, approaches, shoots, and kills Tariq and drives away.  Franklin is subsequently apprehended by the police and let go.  National activist and political figure Reverend Alabaster prepares to make his move into the spotlight while the nation is asking for answers and Tariq’s mother is asking for justice.  Sound familiar?  

Magoon’s polyphonous novel is thick with topical relevance and the challenges of multiple points of view.   It’s first few pages ensnare the reader within a web of suspense structurally furthered by short chapters.  Characters like Brick and Noodle, members of the local Kings 8-5 crew, will appeal to reluctant male readers and others like Jennica, Noodle’s girlfriend and witness at the crime scene; Kimberly, Tariq’s former babysitter-cum-professional stylist; and Tina, Tariq’s little sister, will appeal to female readers, making this a great text for mixed gender book clubs and class discussions. ELA teachers will find this a rich selection for teaching perspective, voice, and character development.  Highly recommended for fans of Walter Dean Myers’ Street Love.  --Jessica Fenster-Sparber

Click here for a discussion guide from the publisher.

Magoon, Kekla.  How It Went Down.  New York: Henry Holt & Co., 2014.  Print.

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