On the Hook

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francisco stork  on the hook

"The passenger door to the Impala opened. Joey came out with an aluminum baseball bat. Hector tried to open the door handle, but his hand, his arm, nothing in his body responded to him."

""Fili! Gloria shouted and pointed at Joey, but before Fili could turn or move out of the way, Joey stopped as if waiting for a pitch and then swung the bat. Hector saw the back of Fili's skull sink in."

Hector is a chess champion.  Hector has plans for his future.  His brother Fili has fallen in love with a girl named Gloria and he's going to buy a home for them and move them all to a better place.  And then..... Hector and Fili run into Chavo and his stepbrother Joey and all hell breaks loose.  Fili gets out of his truck to have a conversation with Chavo so he'll understand that Fili is in love with the girl who left Chavo.  Chavo walks away from the fight.  Fili does not.........

In the court room the judge listens to the stories of Joey and Hector.  She sends both of them to a school, Furman.  Hector engineered his own path.  He said exactly what the judge needed to hear so she would send Hector to be near to Joey because Hector has a plan and that plan is he is going to kill Joey but first he's going to terrify Joey and "own" him.

This book is for every young person who is trapped in anger, trapped in what "is normal" in their world, trapped in a spiral of dysfunction and violence.  Jason Reynolds in A LONG WAY DOWN asked the all important question, "Are you coming?"  What are you going to choose?  Francisco X. Stork is writing a book that says I see you, I understand the culture you are caught in and I want you to know there is another way.

What can Furman offer to Hector? What can Furman offer to Joey? How long will it take Hector to get that perfect moment when he can get his revenge?

This powerful book could change the lives of so many young men and women who only know the path of violence and who don't yet see that they have the power to make a different choice -  to have the courage to turn toward happiness.

Francisco X. Stork clearly cares deeply about young people. He steps into their world with a knowledge and an empathy that shows he "gets" the life they are mired in, the life that looks like it only has certain pathway.  His gift here is opening up the possibility that life can be transformed into something amazing - but it takes the courage to make a different choice.  A great chance to watch someone else take the journey.

304 pages 978-1338692150 Ages 12 and up

Keywords:  Latino, Latina, Latinx, Latinx author, diversity, diverse books, brothers, revenge, violence, culture, choices, anger, emotions, hope, 12 year old, 13 year old, 14 year old

Recommended by: Barb Langridge, abookandahug.com

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You know I'm coming. You're dead already."

Hector has always minded his own business, working hard to make his way to a better life someday. He's the chess team champion, helps the family with his job at the grocery, and teaches his little sister to shoot hoops overhand.

Until Joey singles him out. Joey, whose older brother, Chavo, is head of the Discípulos gang, tells Hector that he's going to kill him: maybe not today, or tomorrow, but someday. And Hector, frozen with fear, does nothing. From that day forward, Hector's death is hanging over his head every time he leaves the house. He tries to fade into the shadows -- to drop off Joey's radar -- to become no one.

But when a fight between Chavo and Hector's brother Fili escalates, Hector is left with no choice but to take a stand.

The violent confrontation will take Hector places he never expected, including a reform school where he has to live side-by-side with his enemy, Joey. It's up to Hector to choose whether he's going to lose himself to revenge or get back to the hard work of living.--from the publisher

Editor's note: This title is a re-working of BEHIND THE EYES published in 2006. 978-0525477358 14 and up

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“We tend to think of movie watching or reading as passive activities. That may be true physically, but it’s not true emotionally. When we watch a film or read a novel, we join ourselves to a character’s trajectory through the story world. We see things from their point of view--feel scared when they are threatened, wounded when they are hurt, pleased when they succeed. These feelings are familiar to us as readers or viewers. But our propensity to identify with characters is actually a remarkable demonstration of our ability to empathize with others.

When we examine this process of identification in fiction, we appreciate the importance of empathy--not only in enjoying works of literature, but in helping us form connections with those around us in the real world. The feelings elicited by fiction go beyond the words on a page or the images on a screen. Far from being solitary activities, reading books or watching movies or plays actually can help train us in the art of being human.”

-- Kenneth Oatley, “A Feeling for Fiction” (Greater Good Magazine, 2005)

“Hector stood on his toes to relieve the pressure, but Joey’s grip gradually increased until all the air coming into Hector’s lungs was cut off. Then, just as Hector was about to lose consciousness, Joey let him go. Hector sank to his knees, coughing and gagging. As soon as he could breathe, Joey pulled Hector’s hair until Hector was on his feet again.

‘Listen to me, culero.’ Joey grabbed Hector’s face and held it until Hector’s eyes were focused. ‘I’m gonna kill you.’

‘Please! No!’

‘Cállate. I’m talking. I’m gonna do it. I’m gonna slice you up. Not now. Soon. I want you to think about it. Every pinche minute of your pinche vida you be thinking about it. Be waiting for it. And this is so you don’t forget you’re a gusano. A mierda, a cobarde.’ Joey stuck his forearm in Hector’s neck and pushed his head hard against the recycling container. He lifted Hector’s T-shirt and slowly carved a C in the left side of Hector’s chest, above his heart. It was a thin cut, only the depth of the skin, and Hector was surprised when it did not hurt at first. Then there was a slight burning sensation that gradually increased until his whole body ached. Hector tightened his jaw to prevent himself from crying out. He felt the saltiness of tears fill his eyes.

‘Why?’ It was all he could think of saying.

‘I own you, puto,’ Joey said, a few inches from Hector’s face. ‘From now on you’re mine.’”

For days, as I’ve read ON THE HOOK, I’ve repeatedly felt the sharp pain of that box cutter slicing a big arc through the skin on my chest. As a long-ago victim of bullying, that scene, where Joey corners, threatens, and cuts Hector Robles, in the dark parking lot behind the Piggly Wiggly--and then threatens even worse if Hector tells anyone--left me falling asleep and awakening with Joey on my mind.

ON THE HOOK is an electrifying contemporary YA tale.

Joey, who is sixteen like Hector, is the little step-brother of Chavo, the local drug dealer. They all live in the El Paso projects. Chavo is reputed to have actually killed someone, so Hector is justifiably terrified.

Hector doesn’t know for sure why Joey has suddenly decided to make his life a living hell, but he suspects and fears that it’s related to the fact that Hector’s big brother Fili is now in a serious relationship with beautiful Gloria, who briefly dated Chavo until she found out what he was about.

Eventually, Chavo and Fili get into a fight because of Gloria. A fight that Joey ends abruptly with a baseball bat.

Life wasn’t always like this for Hector. His family had an idyllic home and home life that was lost when his father died, sending the family into a financial tailspin and leading them to an apartment in the projects. Through it all, Hector has remained a star student and a renowned high school chess player. He's got a great female friend who is also a bright student and stellar chess player.

Author Francisco X. Stork alludes to and utilizes Hemingway’s THE OLD MAN AND THE SEA to great effect. Hector finds himself pondering whether he is the fisherman or the fish on the hook.

Without revealing any more, I’ll say that ON THE HOOK might well assist adolescent readers in forming connections with those in the real world. It’s a story that’s likely going to haunt my thoughts for a while.

Recommended by: Richie Partington, MLIS, California

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