Hands by Torrey Maldonado

Published by Nancy Paulsen Books

Summary:  As he moves toward adulthood, Trev is faced with some difficult decisions.  His stepfather is in jail for hitting his mom, and Trev wants to learn how to fight so he can protect her when his stepdad is free again.  But Trev is surrounded by people who care about him: his mom, his sisters, his teacher, and various “uncles” who are connected to him by blood or friendship and who encourage him to use his hands for his artistic talents.  When Trev ends up using them destructively in an attempt to protect one of his sisters, he begins to learn the downsides of violence.  As he says at the end, “I don’t have it all figured out, but I feel better knowing I have help.”  144 pages; grades 5-9.

Pros:  Short chapters, a distinctive voice, and universal problems make this an excellent choice for tweens and teens, especially young Black men.  It’s a quick read, but it could serve as a vehicle for many different discussions and/or writing prompts.

Cons:  Much of the story and conflict was internal, so there’s not a lot of action.

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