Category: Realistic, Urban
Author: Walter Dean Myers
Summary:Reese is in juvenile detention for stealing prescription pads for the local dealer. Because his rehabilitative potential is high, he has been chosen to pioneer the work program for the prison, and works at a nearby nursing home cleaning and spending time with the elderly Mr. Hooft. Though Hooft is antagonistic and often racist, Reese slowly begins to appreciate him, particularly after hearing the stories of Hooft’s internment in a children’s camp during World War II. Meanwhile, back at the prison, several inmates have selected a smaller boy, Toon, as the target of vicious harassment. When the guards do nothing to stop the impending fights that could get Toon killed, Reese steps in, and is punished for fighting to save Toon’s life. As Reese continues to get caught between trying to stay out of trouble and trying to stay alive, the people in his life believe in him less and less, especially when police return to the jail attempting to pin him for dealing the drugs that got a local addict killed. With only Mr. Hooft and his baby sister Icy who still keep the faith, Reese must struggle daily to maintain the hope that not only can he survive his prison sentence, but that he can make a better life for himself once he is back out on the streets.
Review:This story is a good alternative for younger students who may not be ready for the graphic details or controversy of Monster, but can still connect with the basic content of Myers’ more intense works.
Walter Dean Myers is adept at writing for some of the overlooked teens of today, particularly minority males. While Monster is a graphic, highly controversial glimpse inside the prison system, Lockdown contains similar messages of hope and persistence in a version friendlier to younger students. Reese is a beautifully complex character, and Myers does a wonderful job of overlaying both the traditional “attitude” and hostility often seen in young African-American males on top of Reese’s true concern for his little sister, wish to prove himself and have someone care, fear of the streets, and honest desire for a better life. Myers also allows readers a fair glimpse at the vicious cycle and destructive nature of the prison system; the conclusion in which Reese does manage to get out and build a better life for himself gives readers a satisfying end, but it is tempered by the failure of most of Reese’s fellow inmates to do the same. Though the book does offer hope to young people at risk of similar fates, it deals honestly and soberly with the myriad of destructive elements that can keep someone from reaching his potential. A powerful read that lends itself to thought, connections and discussion, Lockdown will find a strong welcome among its target audience.