Forged by Fire
published in 1998

Description

Sharon Draper has indeed forged a fiery name for herself in the field of young adult literature--that of a courageous writer, willing to tackle tough, real-life problems while developing honorable, streetwise role models for troubled teens. Her previous novel, Tears of the Tiger, garnered much acclaim and became the first recipient of the Coretta Scott King Genesis Award. In this second novel, Draper weaves in characters from Tears --most significantly Gerald Nickleby, a young basketball player who discovers his innate strength and determination while protecting his stepsister's safety and his mother's honor. Unfortunately, Draper's strengths (her desire to delve into tough social issues, such as child abuse, drug addiction, incest, bulimia, and domestic violence) become this book's weakness as the story line teeters on implausible. For example, in less than 20 pages Gerald faces the following: the death of a close friend (a passenger in a car that was driven by a drunk teammate); the discovery of his drunk, evil stepfather trying to sexually assault his younger stepsister; a brutal attack by his stepfather; and a raging apartment fire that threatens to kill them all. Nonetheless, Draper creates believable and important heroes for teenage boys--those who are forged from adversity, only to burn more brightly and courageous. (Ages 12 and older) --Gail Hudson