Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Rikers High by Volponi

Martin Stokes is known as "Forty" at Rikers Island. He is no longer a teenage boy, going to school,
hanging out with his boys, living his life. He is a prisoner at a New York correctional facility, known by
his bed number, Forty. After being arrested for what seemed like an trivial charge, Martin is trapped
in the system for months, and he is counting down the days until his trial. Martin's face is slashed with a razor on the way back from a disappointing court appearance, and he is tortured with the fact that the scars will serve as a constant reminder of his time at Rikers. The scars will tell his story before he has a chance to.

Rikers High is rich with vivid detail about the daily life in Sprung #3, the section of the jail that houses the
juvenile offenders. Brutal corrections officers, unfair strip searches, prowling gangs, and a
constant sense of fear and unease fill Martin's final days at Rikers. There is one bright spot in Martin's life -- the part of the day when he is allowed to attend high school classes within the jail. For a brief time, he no longer feels like a criminal, but more like the person he was before he made
his biggest mistake. Mr. Demarco, one of the teachers inside the jail, treats Martin like a student
instead of a prisoner -- with respect and dignity. He gives Martin the hope that when he gets out, he
WILL make something of himself.

Paul Volponi is an amazing writer, and this story feels painfully realistic. Read this if you enjoy
gritty, urban fiction with a heart.


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