Thursday, December 07, 2006


Harmon, Michael. 2006. Skate.

No doubt about it, Ian McDermott is a troubled teen. A teen raising his brother who’s in fourth grade while their mother vanishes for weeks on end doing drugs and prostituting herself. This is a family in crisis. Searching for pocket change to feed himself and his brother is a daily chore. One of the heartbreaking scenes in the book is when the reader sees him with three dollars cash go to the store and buy a can of tuna and a box of tuna helper. He starts preparing supper and while it’s cooking they go for a skateboard ride in the neighborhood. The boys return to find their mother drugged out and her drug-dealer boyfriend eating their supper unrepentantly. When Ian says that was the only food in the house and he only has seventy cents to his name, his mother shrugs it off and the drug-dealer gets angry. Ian goes back to the store to buy a can of soup. He and his brother eat while hiding in the shed in the backyard while his mother and her drug-dealer do drugs all night. But his problems extend past his home life. His difficulties at school are mainly with the “authority.” He has an administration determined to transfer him if he’ll go quietly or expel him if he protests. His crime? He doesn’t “fit in” with the school’s image. He takes the second or third meeting with the administration relatively calmly. True, he’s angry and he says a few things he shouldn’t have said. But he’s on his way out. He knows that they won’t let him stay. But then he has a confrontation with one of the coaches. The coach is antagonizing him, provoking him, grabbing him. Ian loses it and hits him in the jaw. Then he’s gone. He runs. He flees picking up his younger brother on the way out of town. Now the boys are on the run from the law with very few friends and no cash.

Skate is the journey of a young man to the dark side and back. His determination NOT to be who people want him to be--a mindless street thug drawn to drugs and violence--is strong. His love for his brother is an incredible force. And the book as a whole is a reminder that you shouldn’t judge others based on appearances and first impressions. People can and will surprise you.

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