Shavonne is 17 and in a juvenile detention center. We first meet her in an isolated cell, as a result of starting a fight with one of the guards. The more we learn about Shavonne at first, the more we dislike her. Not only has she has just hurt a guard who was pretty nice to her, she goes on to lie about being raped as the excuse for her actions.
Shavonne is visited by the "new shrink", a psychiatrist by the name of Mr. Delpopolo. Mr. Delpopolo is fat and bald, with sad eyes of his own. While Shavonne initially lashes out at Mr. D, their time together eventually helps Shavonne decide what she wants for her future: the one she's been destined for almost since she was born, or the one she makes for herself
Goodman's own experience as a school psychologist gives this book a heartbreaking authenticity. Goodman depicts a system that wears down the very people it is set up to help. Despite the fact that most of the guards find any little excuse to beat on the girls, there are a few good people at the center that.
Where the emotions of this book are very complex, the plot is pretty simple. Shavonne starts out in isolation for beating on a guard. Her 18th birthday is approaching, and she can either be released from the center or sent to an adult detention center. While some of the choices are Shavonne's to make, other choices are out of her control. How will it end up?
This book is fairly easy to read, with short chapters. The situations in the book mirror what many children live with daily: graphic language, sexual molestation, mental/physical abuse, drugs, prostitution. Goodman uses these to tell Shavonne's story, not to sensationalize it.
Reviewed by: Maureen Squier, Librarian, New York, USA