|Author||Walter Dean Myers|
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The novel tells the story of Jamal Hicks, a 12-year-old African American boy from Harlem sharing his distress with a Puerto rican boy, Tito, in the times of segregation. He must come up with a lot of money in order for his older brother to be released from jail so he joins a gang. Jamal is having a hard time at school, home, and in the streets.
The main problem in his life is trying to get his brother, Randy, out of jail. Randy is a 17-year-old who is the leader of the Scorpions, a local gang. The gang's motive is to make money by selling cocaine or "crack".
His family includes himself, Mama, his 8-year-old sister Sassy, Randy,and his father, Jevon Hicks. Jamal's father used to be an alcoholic after losing his job and started abusing Jamal's mother Mama until she moved away from him with the kids. This happened while Jamal was very young. Now Jamal's father only comes to visit the family "once in a while".
The story starts out with Jamal and his family thinking that Randy needs only $500 for his appeal. Then the next morning, Jamal's Mama tells Jamal that Randy says to go see Mack. Mama does not like the boy because he is on crack and thinks he caused Randy to kill the delicatessen owner. She keeps warning Jamal about Mack. His mother soon finds out that his brother has been attacked and stabbed while in jail and is in medical care while his mother visits him, the other members of the Scorpions find out, thinking they should defend themselves by offering Jamal to join the Scorpions much to Indian's dismay. They believe this will help make a connection by having orders directly from Randy to Jamal back to the members; the other members feel through they should just vote on a new leader because they feel Randy is dead to them and feeling that letting a 12-year-old joining a gang would not be beneficial. When Jamal meets Mack, Mack tells Jamal to be the leader of the Scorpions and finds out the appeal is really $2,000. The second time Jamal meets Mack, Mack gives him a gun while playing tag at a park.
At school, Jamal is having a tough time with the principal, Mr. Davidson. The teachers are giving him trouble, and Dwayne is giving him trouble by bullying him. In the book, he fights Dwayne and threatens Dwayne with a gun in the second fight which leads to Jamal getting into deeper trouble in school. Jamal is given a gun to get his way in to his brother's former position as the leader of the Scorpions. One afternoon after Jamal and Tito get out of the school they follow the brother's fellow gang member Mack. The gun causes several bad occasions, ultimately causing Jamal's best friend Tito to be sent to Puerto Rico