Bang! – Sharon G. Flake

Bang!

Reading level: 3

Genre: Realistic fiction

ELL-Friendly: Yes (for language, not content)

Library recommendation: High school because of graphic content; middle school with caution

(Having read this book over a year ago, I am having a hard time remembering much and keeping it separate from One of Us, which I read back to back.)

This book is rough. Centered in a violent neighborhood, gun violence is everywhere for Mann (13 years old) and his family. Mann is the narrator, and the text fits his personality and way of speaking (Ebonics since he’s African America, as are most (all?) of the characters). It’s centered around he and his family dealing with the loss of Mann’s younger brother who was randomly gunned down on their front porch, and Mann and his friend are convinced that their time to be shot and killed is coming too. This is intense stuff, you guys.

The reading level is low, but professional book reviewers recommend this book for 8th grade at he youngest, some saying 18 is the youngest age to read it. These recommendations obviously stem from the content.

I’m conflicted whether this book even belongs in a middle school classroom. Would it help kids who have lost a family member or friend to violence? Part of me says “yes” because it shows that you’re not alone in the emotional torment. On the other hand, kids who don’t relate to this story, to Mann, or to gun violence in their backyard might very well be disturbed. Maybe it’s one to keep on the selves at home to bring out when you think a kid could benefit from it.

Another option is putting an “Explicit” sticker on the book and asking that any student who wishes to read it have a conference with the teacher before starting, not to mention meeting with the student as they read through it.

Parents could get upset from their kid reading this book too. It’s violent and graphic, so I would understand. But sometimes you need to read a book about yourself if you’ve lived a life like Mann.

Sharon G. Flake has some excellent-looking books out there for young African American readers, so there’s some more books to put on my wish list.

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