Review: Kindness for Weakness by Shawn Goodman

Kindness for WeaknessKindness for Weakness by Shawn Goodman

Publication Date: May 14, 2013
Page Count: 272
Published by: Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Source: eARC courtesy of publisher in exchange for an honest review

Synopsis From Goodreads:

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest meets Catcher in the Rye.

A fifteen-year-old boy from an abusive home desperately seeking his older brother's love and approval starts pushing drugs for him and suffers the consequences.

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I really wasn't sure what to think about Kindness For Weakness going into it, but I ended up really loving it. I cried on more than one occasion, and maybe I'm more emotional than some, but I felt this was an unexpectedly powerful story.

I really felt for the protagonist, James, because he had such a crappy home life. With a piece of junk mother and an even worse step-father, James prefers to walk the streets alone than spend time in the same house with them. It was so bad at home that his older brother, Louis, walked out years ago and never looked back. I could understand the reasons why he left, but I don't see how he could walk away from his younger brother without another thought.

When Louis suddenly starts coming around and paying James attention, James thinks it's great - but he soon realizes that Louis doesn't give a crap about anyone but himself, and he's been using his younger brother to do his dirty work. As a result, James gets sent to the worst juvenile detention center in the system. This place makes (A and E series) 'Scared Straight' look like day camp. It is rough inside, especially for someone as sensitive as James. Because it's his first offense and first incarceration, James has no idea how to handle himself.

James has difficulties navigating the system and learning to live up (or down) to his new status as a juvenile offender. James loves to read and really wants to better himself while inside. He does good at first, even getting some rewards for good behavior. He also has the support from a few of the adults inside. But his biggest support comes from his English teacher, who saw something in James that no one else saw, and tried to help James through literature. He believes James is meant for so much more. James is able to cope with being locked up by analyzing the books he reads, finding a deeper meaning, and applying what he has learned to his current situation.

I really enjoyed the realistic portrayal of James, and I thought he had huge growth as a character through his experiences. Some of his hardships were heartbreaking for me, but I liked that he was trying to make the best of things while serving his time.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading Kindness For Weakness. I thought it was well written, with just the right balance of action and thoughtful reflection. James felt so real to me, and I was totally sympathetic towards his plight. This was a raw and powerful story, and I highly recommend it.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
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