Author: Shawn Goodman
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Release Date: May 14th, 2013
Interest: Author / Contemporary / Guy Appeal
Source: ARC received from the author
Summary (From the publisher):
“In the spirit of [Walter Dean Myers’s] Monster meeting The Catcher in the Rye, Goodman’s masterful story will remain with the reader long after the last page, echoing the raw truth that perhaps a real man is one who is both brave and scared.” —Ruta Sepetys, author of Between Shades of Gray
In an environment where kindness equals weakness, how do those who care survive?
Shawn Goodman will capture your heart with this gritty, honest, and moving story about a boy struggling to learn about friendship, brotherhood, and manhood in a society where violence is the answer to every problem.
Shawn Goodman’s sophomore release, Kindness for Weakness, made me feel an array of emotions: hope, grief, dismay, and more. I absolutely loved Something Like Hope, so when I featured Kindness for Weakness on Waiting on Wednesday, Shawn offered to send me an ARC of it. I had requested a copy via NetGalley, and hadn’t received a response yet, so I accepted his kind offer. Regardless of how I received a copy of this book, I thoroughly enjoyed it and can’t wait to offer it to my students.
What I like most about Shawn Goodman’s writing is how honest and real it is. He works with troubled kids as a school psychologist and it’s evident in his writing. He really understands what teens are going through and how much they suffer. He understands what a bad home life can do to a teen. He knows how difficult it is for troubled teens to trust themselves and others. The characters in Something Like Hope and Kindness for Weakness display this deep understanding.
James is a character I cheered for while reading. He’s really trying to find his way and learn what it means to be a man, to stand up himself, and how to trust himself and those around him. His mom is basically absent, her boyfriend Ron is abusive, and his brother isn’t the best role model. Thankfully James has an encouraging English teacher, but he’s really the only supportive person James has at the beginning of the story. He has so much potential if only he believed himself and had support outside of school. James’s character made me think of students I have at school. He’s a good kid that’s stuck in a bad situation and ultimately makes poor choices because of this. The reader, fortunately, can see his potential and goodness even if James can’t.
I had a difficult time reading this because of the guards at Morton (the juvenile detention facility). They are brutal and horrible. There are some shining characters there like Samson and Mr. Eboue who really make a difference for James and some of the other characters. I hope the brutality at Morton is an exception and not the rule, but part of me thinks that’s not the case. I have had students like James and like the other characters in Kindness for Weakness. They may make bad decisions, but I know they need guidance and someone to believe in them. I don’t work in a detention facility so I can’t understand what that’s like, but the teacher in me hopes they can and are better than Morton. The setting Shawn Goodman created in Kindness for Weakness really plays a pivotal role in the book.
I will admit that I had a difficult time keeping all of the characters straight and probably could have done without a couple of them. Other than that, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The last few chapters had me racing to finish, but also cringing at the brutality. The ending, however, shocked me. I’m not sure what to think, and even though I was upset, the ending works. I’m even tempted to read The Sea Wolf by Jack London which plays a strong part in James’s development and the development of the story.
Kindness for Weakness definitely has a place in classrooms and libraries. I highly recommend reading it and handing it to a teen reader.