Seventeen-year-old Efrain Rodriguez has a shot at being valedictorian of his Bronx high school come June and a shot at getting into Harvard if he can only get his SAT score up from 1650 to 2200. What he doesn't have is money. He's got mad rage at his philandering father who left the family for a newer model and rarely contributes to the family he left behind. He loves and respects his hardworking mother, who worries about how the family will get the money to fund Efrain's dream, but who trusts him to find a way. He and his best friend, Chingy, work each afternoon tutoring to earn money. They worry about Nestor, their friend who quit school and is selling drugs on a street corner. One thing for sure, his guidance counselor surely isn't helping. In fact, she's actively discouraging Efrain. So, what's a poor, bi-racial kid from the Bronx gotta do to get the dough?
Efrain's thoughtful first-person narrative pulls the reader right into his world. Each chapter heading is an SAT word, defined along with its part of speech and reflects what is about to happen. Efrain's secret doesn't stay secret for that long and when it all blows up in his face, the action definitely picks up as the reader wonders how Efrain will resolve his crises. Even with the engaging narrator and hip dialogue, the premise is a shaky one though. The valedictorian of an inner city school would not know about low-interest loans and special incentive programs at the Ivies? That the school counselor wouldn't be tripping over herself to do everything to get this kid in somewhere? Still, there's a lot to appeal, especially to reluctant readers. It's worth the trip.
ISBN-10: 0375847065 /ASIN: B005Q8EZOI
Recommended by: Brenda Kahn, Librarian, New Jersey, USA