Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Book Review: Dough Boys by Paula Chase (2019)

This companion novel to last year's So Done follows two boys, Rollie and Simp, who both play on the Marauders basketball team and assist Coach Tez with drug runs. Simp is mostly comfortable with his role in Tez's operation, and he is hoping to move up the chain of command and take on more responsibility. Rollie, on the other hand, has been working on his music since getting involved with the Talented and Gifted program, and he's starting to feel that he's spread himself too thin with music, basketball, and his "work" on the side. As basketball season wears on, these two friends find themselves in conflict as their priorities begin to run at cross purposes.

Whereas I wasn't bothered very much by the mature content in So Done (which includes reference to a sexual overture made by a grown man to a young girl), I had a much harder time with it in this book. I felt so disgusted with many of the adults in this story, seeing the ways they took advantage of young boys. Simp's mom, for example, is looking to get another of her sons involved with the drug business so she can increase her personal cash flow. Worse, the coach pretends to keep the boys out of trouble with basketball, but then sends them out to do his drug-related bidding without people like Rollie's kind and concerned grandmother ever being the wiser. Though the dangers of getting involved in selling drugs are made clear by the end of the book, not every character learns his lesson, and the story doesn't provide a lot of hope or instruction for getting out of the drug business without getting hurt.

I think the writing in this book was excellent, but I also can't imagine handing this book to my own kids when they are middle school age. I realize that the way of life portrayed in this book is real for kids in neighborhoods like the one depicted in this story, and maybe kids in that situation want to read books that reflect that experience. But I'm uncomfortable with the fact that there isn't a clear-cut resolution at the end with a definitive condemnation of drugs, and there were also some references to sexual arousal that felt inappropriate outside of YA. My kids are still little, and we are very much still in the mode of preserving innocence rather than promoting understanding of the problems of the adult world, so it's possible my opinion will change with time, but for now, this is a book I thoroughly enjoyed, but that I think is more likely to belong on another family's bookshelf rather than my own.

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