This book is written by the author of the world famous Spenser and Jesse Stone mysteries (among others) Robert B. Parker. This is his second book targeted for the youth market, but I'll be the first to say adults will truly enjoy it also. The reader is first introduced to a shy, young, sad boy by the name of Jason Green. His Father had died and his Mother has buried what's left of her life in a bottle. He didn't like sports so a lot of kids in school thought he was a "sissy". What he did enjoy was old movies and drawing. Each night at dinner his Mother would get drunk and then Jason would have the rest of his night down to a science. He'd go out for a walk down to the beach to a secluded spot to be by himself to think about things, and by the time he got home his Mother would be passed out drunk, and Jason would just go to bed like nothing happened. Then one fateful night while Jason was in his special spot he overheard a man and woman talking about some illegal endeavors, but they couldn't see him. The man and woman were afraid of being seen together so the woman left first. Then the man saw Jason and said: "You heard everything." Jason said: "I didn't hear anything."
The tide later brought in Jason's dead body. The rumor around school was that he had used steroids and committed suicide. The cast of characters that are introduced on both sides of the law form the backbone of the story involving the unrelenting quest to clear Jason's name and uncover the criminal element in William Dawes Regional High School. The main protagonist is fifteen-year-old Terry Novack who is working extremely hard learning how to box from George, a black fifty-five-year-old former boxer who works at the local gym. Terry is extremely dedicated to following all the rules, regulations, and training regimens that George sets out. The idea is to find out if Terry truly has the proper character to be a boxer before he actually gets in the ring. Throughout the story George is instrumental not only in the physical and mental part of boxing, but he also conveys sage advice to Terry in his own unique brand of English, that includes numerous sentences that are devoid of many integral verbs and adjectives. Terry's trusty sidekick is his good friend and burgeoning love interest Abby Hall. Abby is a tremendous student, extremely cute, and becomes the "spy" to Terry's "boxer" in this coming of age story of loyalty and the many obstacles in growing up in today's young world of dwindling role models.
While just about all the other kids in school thought Jason was gay and didn't care that he died, Terry remembered that years ago when his own Dad had died, that the day of his Dad's wake, "there was a kid, by himself, Jason Green, wearing a suit coat and tie. He walked past the funeral parlor man at the door, who looked at him as if he didn't belong, and came straight up to Terry. Hi, he said. I wanted to tell you something. My Father died when I was ten, Jason said, after a while you won't feel so bad as you do now. Terry nodded. You'll get used to it, Jason said. Terry nodded again. I just wanted you to know, Jason said. Thank you, Terry said. Thanks for coming."
That memory empowered Terry to enlist his (girl) friend Abby and all their other friends as they fought the powers that be at the school that included the muscle-bound hot-tempered principal Mr. Bullard, All-State football player Kip Carter, and even Gubernatorial candidate Mrs. Trent, as Terry would not be stopped short of his goal of clearing Jason's name. Terry, Abby, and their friends tackle the questions of steroid use, first kisses, and love and sex, at the right time in the right way.
I recommend this book to readers all across the age spectrum. Parents can feel very confident that if they give this book as a gift to teenagers that the right message will be presented. Older Robert B. Parker fans will take a small delight in recognizing characteristics in George that resemble Hawk, and Terry and Abby could almost be a teenage Spenser and Susan. A delightful book.