Dope Sick
by Myers, Walter Dean

Jeremy "Lil J" Dance, who sees no way out of his hard life in Harlem, flees into a house after a drug deal goes awry and meets a strange man who shows various turning points in Lil J's life when he could have made better choices.

Pursued by police after a drug deal goes disastrously wrong, 17-year-old Lil J hides out in an abandoned building where he encounters a strange, solitary man named Kelly, who is watching television. Stranger still is what Kelly is watching: scenes from Lil J s past and his prospective future! How can this be? And how to answer the question that Kelly then asks: "If you could do it all over again and change something, what would it be?" As Lil J ponders his answer, Kelly screens more scenes from the teen s unfortunate life, including his growing heroin habit. Is this a drug-induced hallucination? A ghostly visitation la Dickens Scrooge? A metaphysical fantasy? A cautionary tale? All of the above? Wisely, Myers provides no easy answers to these difficult questions, trusting his readers to find their own truths and lessons in Lil J s life. Yes, "lessons," for there is definitely a didactic element here. But, happily, Myers narrative strategy is so inherently dramatic that it captures his readers attentions and imaginations, inviting not only empathy but also thoughtful discussion. Copyright 2008 Booklist Reviews.

Street life on DVR. After a botched drug deal leaves a cop fighting for his life, Jeremy Dance (aka Lil J) knows that he made some bad decisions. Seeking refuge in an abandoned building, Jeremy runs into Kelly, a mysterious man who has a remote control that allows Jeremy to review his life and change one critical decision. Together they view key moments and discuss what Jeremy did or did not do to end up where he is now. Lil J's blend of street bravado and uncertainty never really comes through effectively, leaving readers with a whining narrator. The supporting characters have vivid page presence, however, in stark contrast to the main character's dull personality. The disjuncture between Jeremy's language when he is reminiscing about his untroubled home situations and his discussion of street life shows genuine character development, but it is not enough to compensate for the thin premise. An ambiguous ending coupled with the fantastical slant further diminish the message. In his most recent urban YA title since Street Love (2007), Myers delivers a solid tale, but misses the nuances. (Fiction. YA) Copyright Kirkus 2009 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

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