‘On the Come Up’

You’re a good kid.

You are. You’re smart, decent, and loyal but every now and then—especially when you’re not asking for it—it seems like trouble jumps on your back for a ride and there ya go. You hate that because it’s times like those that just about ruin your life. Times like those make people think badly about you.


They’d learn different, though, if they’d just give you a break. It’s what everybody needs, but in the new book “On the Come Up” by Travis Hunter, that break better come soon.


That’s a high number, even higher when DeMarco Winslow considered it. That’s how many times he’d been locked in juvie before he promised himself that there wouldn’t be a number 33.

Mr. P, a volunteer at the jail, knew that DeMarco could do better but Mr. P didn’t know what it was like to live with an alcoholic mother. Mr. P had no idea that 16-year-old DeMarco was the man of the house, or that he watched out for his twin sister, Jasmine, and their 3-year-old brother, Devin. No, Mr. P rocked a fancy truck and he was livin’ large. He’d probably never been locked up.

Still, juvie looked pretty good compared to what awaited DeMarco back home.

Jasmine had changed in the seven months that DeMarco was away, and she was running with a girl gang. Sophia, DeMarco’s mother, had a boyfriend and Otis’ eyes were on Jasmine. The only good thing was that the ’hood was upgrading and Devin had made a friend of the White lady next door.

Then Jasmine disappeared, just before Sophia was arrested for attempted murder and the school board refused to let DeMarco back in class because of his record—a record he wanted to erase and forget but the ’hood had other ideas: a cross-town gang was hoping to settle a score and the gang’s women were claiming that Jasmine owed them serious money.

Yep, it would be hard to resist trouble, but DeMarco was not going back to jail…

Looking for a young adult book that doesn’t include profanity, blood-and-guts, sappy romance or magic, and is totally without vampires? Then you want “On the Come Up” because it lacks all of the above and is written just for teen boys.

Author Travis Hunter knows young men because he’s a father of one and a mentor for others. He knows how they talk, how they dress, and how they roll, so this book is filled with dialogue and language that isn’t stiff or fakey. What’s best, though, about Hunter’s characters is that they’re basically decent kids who struggle to find a way out of their circumstances. They’re inspiring, responsible, and they’re the kind of people you’d want as friends.

While there’s no reason a teen girl can’t love this book, “On the Come Up” is definitely recommended for boys age 14-18.

(“On the Come Up” by Travis Hunter, c.2011, Dafina Teen, $9.95/$10.95 Canada, 256 pages.)

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