Plot: Julia goes to a school controlled by gangs. Even one of her oldest friends, Black Chuck, is a Crip. But Julia decided a long time ago that she would stay neutral. Everything changes when she meets the new kid, Eric. He’s gorgeous and everyone wants him but he seems to be only interested in Julia. Things are perfect until Eric suddenly joins the Crips. Julia follows him deeper into the world of gangs, one which is more dangerous than she ever imagined.
I haven’t read much street lit and I know very little about street gangs (I admit it, I’m a white girl who grew up on Canadian military bases) so I can’t say how well Van Dieppe captured this world. She certainly describes it well enough to make it seem real. I’m a bit wary of the amount of slang she uses. It seems to work (though again I don’t know the street) but the problem with slang is that it can go out of date quickly. Still, I understand that this is a convention of the genre.
The novel doesn’t glamorize gangs and the culture surrounding it but neither is it preachy. You can understand why people like Black Chuck or Eric might join a gang, and the codes of behaviour that they follow. The book is also fast paced and exciting with short chapters and a lot of dialogue. Even someone who isn’t a big reader can enjoy it.
I actually met Van Diepen when I got this book and Raven. She spoke quite eloquently about street lit and working in a Brooklyn high school much like this one. I think she has a very good understanding of girls like Julia and she is very serious about trying to reach them.