Thursday, May 13, 2010

Book Review: Dope Sick

I am a fan of Walter Dean Myers and have read several of his books. I also teach Monster, which is one of his best-known works. Myers tends to write about inner city characters who are struggling to find a way to live honestly, despite the temptations and realities they face on a daily basis.

Dope Sick is an interesting book because Myers uses magical realism, which I've never seen him do before. I enjoy magical realism in other books (like Gabriel Garcia Marquez) and thought that it was used in a tasteful, interesting way in Dope Sick. This literary technique is used when the main character, Lil J, stumbles into a vacant apartment. Lil J enters the abandoned building because he's running from the police. Apparently, Lil J is wanted for shooting a police officer, who is now in critical condition.

In the vacant apartment sits Kelly. Kelly is an older man, who seems completely unruffled by the fact that Lil J has a gun pointed at his head and threatens to use it if Kelly does not give directions to the roof. Kelly calmly invites Lil J to sit and watch his television, which is replaying the most pivotal events from Lil J's life. Quickly, Lil J is sucked back into his own life story, and is able to see the consequences of his actions and how his life would have been different if he had only made slightly different decisions.

This is a short, powerful read. It will probably appeal more to male readers than female, but I could see this used as a full-class teaching text, especially if it were paired with another Walter Dean Myers read or a book where a character has to make some difficult choices.

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