Two friends and basketball team mates are forced to confront the endemic racism of their town when one of them is beaten and hospitalized by a policeman.
A bag of chips. That's all sixteen-year-old Rashad is looking for. What he finds instead is a fist-happy cop, Paul, who mistakes Rashad for a shoplifter, mistakes Rashad's pleadings that he's stolen nothing for belligerence, mistakes Rashad's every flinch at every punch the cop throws as further resistance and refusal to STAY STILL as ordered. But how can you stay still when someone is pounding your face into the pavement?
There were witnesses: Quinn - a varsity basketball player and Rashad's classmate who has been raised by Paul since his own father died in Afghanistan - and a video camera. Soon the beating is all over the news and Paul is getting threatened with accusations of prejudice and racial brutality. Quinn refuses to believe that the man who has basically been his saviour could possibly be guilty. But then Rashad is absent. And absent again. And again. And the basketball team - half of whom are Rashad's best friends - start to take sides. As does the school. And the town.
Simmering tensions threaten to explode as Rashad and Quinn are forced to face decisions and consequences they had never considered before.
Book of the week
This was first published in the US in 2015, and now has been published here in the UK, but the events of the book are shockingly as pertinent (or even more so?) six years later. It follows the build up to and aftermath of a truly horrific attack on a young black teenager, Rashan, who is falsely accused of shoplifting and resisting arrest and is then beaten to a bloody pulp by a police officer and hospitalised. We see events from Rashan's point of view and his classmate Quinn who happens to be passing by and is witness to the event. It's an easily accessible read in style but that draws out the complicated relationships between characters and their motivations, and existing racial tensions in a really clever, subtle way that never feels cliched or heavy handed, and engages your sympathy for both characters. Definitely one to promote discussion or just a cracking story to get your teeth into and really think about.