by Barbara Binns (Author)

Reading Level: 6th − 7th Grade

For fans of Jason Reynolds and Kwame Alexander, a poignant and timely novel about race, class, and second chances.

Ever since T'Shawn's dad died, his mother has been struggling to keep the family afloat. So when he's offered a spot on a prestigious diving team at the local private swim club, he knows that joining would only add another bill to the pile.

But T studies hard and never gets into trouble, so he thinks his mom might be willing to bear the cost... until he finds out that his older brother, Lamont, is getting released early from prison.

Luckily, T'Shawn is given a scholarship, and he can put all his frustration into diving practices. But when criminal activity increases in the neighborhood and people begin to suspect Lamont, T'Shawn begins to worry that maybe his brother hasn't left his criminal past behind after all.

And he struggles to hold on to the hope that they can put the broken pieces of their damaged relationship back together.

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Kirkus Reviews

A solid addition with a multifaceted look at the urban experience.

School Library Journal

Gr 4-7--Just after his 13th birthday, T'Shawn must rearrange his life when his older brother, Lamont, returns home to the south side of Chicago from prison. Fortunately, T finds focus through his dive team as he strives to keep his scholarship and excel at the sport. Friendships, family, and community support help T through the rough times in this absorbing and powerful tale. The characters are complex and compelling, with even minor characters evidencing a mixture of both positive and negative emotions and actions. Reminiscent of Chris Crutcher's Whale Talk, Binns's novel focuses on a number of intersecting concerns such as racism, police brutality, economic inequity, health care costs, gangs, incarceration, and recidivism. Though the perspective is completely appropriate for children--and perhaps all too familiar to many--the two scenes featuring police brutality display realistic violence; readers may benefit from a mediated exploration of their feelings and frustrations in reaction to the scenes described. While the optimistic conclusion might not be particularly satisfying for more mature or experienced readers, it will be satisfying for many younger readers and it pivots on the themes of forgiveness and second chances. VERDICT An auspicious debut and a compelling read that will prompt important discussions about police brutality, racism, and economic inequity.--Erin Reilly-Sanders, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Copyright 2018 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

Publishers Weekly

The tense relationship between two brothers drives this middle grade debut set on Chicago's South Side, as narrator T'Shawn turns 13, joins a diving team, and deals with the return of his older brother, Lamont, from prison. Raised by his mother after his father's death from cancer (an illness that left crushing medical debt and caused the family a brief stint in a shelter), T'Shawn realizes that he wants to dive. A windfall scholarship allows him to participate in the sport, despite the notion that African-Americans "don't do water sports." Though the sports thread and familiar middle school issues, such as crushes, loom large, friction in T'Shawn's home anchors the story: he cannot forget the violence and betrayals of Lamont's former gang days and regards him as "the biggest villain I know." Binns amplifies T'Shawn's distrust with the neighborhood's concerns, and conflict heightens after T'Shawn gets swept up in a petition to send Lamont away. While forced dialogue marks some of the coverage of weighty issues, this novel successfully tackles the realities of homelessness, police intimidation and violence, and racism, and it ultimately demonstrates that forgiveness requires courage. Ages 8-12. (July)

Copyright 2018 Publishers Weekly, LLC Used with permission.

Review quotes

Barbara Binns

Barbara Binns is an African American author of contemporary, multicultural stories. She was born and raised on Chicago's south side. She writes to attract and inspire readers with stories of "real boys growing into real men...and the people who love them."

Her books for middle grade and young adult readers include Pull, Being God, and Courage. Her writing has won an Oregon 2010 Readers Choice award and was chosen for the 2012 YALSA Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers list. In addition to writing, she volunteers with groups from students to senior citizens, and gives lectures and workshops to both experienced and aspiring authors.As the eldest of five children, Barbara learned responsibility at an early age. Her eclectic career path includes work as a clinical chemist at the University of Chicago Hospitals, as a computer analyst for AT&T, and now as an author for her readers. She finds writing for young people an exercise in self-discipline and the perfect follow-up to her life as an adoptive parent and cancer survivor. She lives and writes in a suburb of Chicago. You can find Barbara on Twitter at @barbarabinns, Facebook at @allthecolorsoflove, or on her website at

Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Publication date
August 23, 2022
BISAC categories
JUV021000 - Juvenile Fiction | Law & Crime
JUV011010 - Juvenile Fiction | People & Places | United States - African-American
JUV039070 - Juvenile Fiction | Social Themes | Homelessness & Poverty
JUV013070 - Juvenile Fiction | Family | Siblings
JUV039040 - Juvenile Fiction | Social Themes | Drugs, Alcohol, Substance Abuse
JUV032060 - Juvenile Fiction | Sports & Recreation | Water Sports
Library of Congress categories
African Americans
Family life
Single-parent families

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