Things can change in a second:
The second Frankie Green gets that scholarship letter, he has his ticket out of Jamaica.
The second his longtime crush, Leah, asks him on a date, he’s in trouble.
The second his father gets shot, suddenly nothing else matters.
And the second Frankie joins his uncle’s gang in exchange for paying for his father’s medical bills, there’s no going back…or is there?
As Frankie does things he never thought he’d be capable of, he’s forced to confront the truth of the family and future he was born into—and the ones he wants to build for himself.
Thank you so much to Simon and Schuster’s CA for sending me an advanced readers copy of Your Corner Dark!
Your Corner Dark focuses on the life of Frankie Green, a teenage who lives in a town called Troy in Jamaica. His family isn’t well off, and since the death of his mother, Frankie’s relationship with his father has been strained. When he gets a scholarship to the University of Arizona for Engineering, it seems like Frankie’s dream of going to school in the United States is going to come true. But when his father is shot, Frankie has to re-evaluate what is more important to him.
This book, meant for grades 9 and up, points a vivid picture of what life in Jamaica is like. As someone who has never been to Jamaica, I feel like you can see two sides of the island as an outsider. Of course there are the beautiful resorts and beaches, but there is also the warnings of violence and gangs. Of course, I think that the latter image is also motivated by racism and prejudice, because there is violence everywhere. But Hall’s book paints a much more nuanced picture. Yes, gangs are in the center of this story, but Hall also discusses how the gangs are sometimes the only option for young men in these community, and how beyond just fighting with other gangs, they also support their communities. There is also the narrative of how the wider community of Troy supports each other, and how many young people in Jamaica are working to honour their heritage and make their island a better place. The book describes Jamaica as the nuanced, shades-of-grey place that every is, and I think that is a very important message to get across to younger readers.
The familial relationships portrayed in this book are also a strength. The relationships between Frankie, his father, his aunt and his uncle are all unique, and show just how difficult family can be. Throughout the book Frankie is shown to really grow up and see his family in a new light, and better understand the motives behind their actions. He learns about his father and brother, and his family history. And while the book doesn’t take as hard a stance against abuse and I wish it would have, it does paint a good picture of the cycle of abuse. Frankie’s grandfather beat his father as a punishment, and so as a result Frankie’s father beats Frankie because it’s the only way he knows how to discipline his son. Does Frankie’s father’s experience make his abuse of Frankie okay? No. But it does illustrate how abuse victims can perpetuate that abuse, and also shows how important it is to educate people about how to break this cycle.
In the same vein, I think this book really drew on the theme of family history, and how we are all products of our family. Even Frankie’s uncle and aunt show how their relationship with their parents has shaped them as people. Seeing Frankie choose to break this cycle, and become his own person at the end of the novel, was therefore really powerful, because it wasn’t the easy path for him to take.
Overall, I think this book was really good for it’s age group, and provides important messages about family, privilege and more. It does have some serious themes, but if you’re looking for a book for a younger teenager in your life that you think could handle this, this would definitely be a good choice.
Have a great weekend ducks, and I’ll be back next week with another review!