by Hernandez, David

Wishing he were spending his summer relaxing, drawing, and dating, Marcus worries about where things will end up as he drives along with his brother and a loaded gun on their way to their father's house.

In the summer before his senior year, Marcus and his friends escape their troubles at parties involving sex, drugs, and alcohol (all detailed in some explicit passages). At the background of Marcus' angst is the physical abuse that his younger brother suffered from their father, who then left the family. Now, Dad wants to come back, and Marcus' mother is considering the possibility. This sends Marcus, his brother, and his brother's girlfriend on a road trip to track down their father in San Francisco, where they hope to exact their own psychological revenge on Dad. The episodic, first-person narration powerfully captures Marcus' scattered, adolescent thoughts, and many young readers will recognize his raw, unvarnished voice. The end provides a rather heavy-handed symbol of Marcus coming to terms with his past, but this is only a minor quibble about this otherwise realistic, affecting coming-of-age debut from a poet known for his adult works. Copyright 2008 Booklist Reviews.

Marcus Mendoza, aka Nub because of a severed index finger, narrates this hard-hitting and profane novel about parental abuse. From the opening sentence, the writing shocks, then mesmerizes readers, making its title an apt choice. Hernandez powerfully describes the harsh life of working poor families and their children as victims. Marcus imagines there are others like him, a "whole dissatisfied throng, T-shirted and disheveled and angry at the world." As readers ride with the brothers on their journey of vengeance, Enrique, Marcus's younger brother, steps into the spotlight. Enrique has suffered years of physical beatings from their father, a man who bolted to Monterey, Calif., a year before the story opens. The journey to hunt down their father is fueled by hits of acid and "gourmet marijuana," as Hernandez skillfully produces sobering descriptions of prior tragedies. The climax crackles with suspense, but the last 20 pages have a tacked-on vibe that's a slight letdown. Nevertheless, Hernandez's solid first YA effort will have readers clamoring for his next work. (Fiction. YA) Copyright Kirkus 2008 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.

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