by Torrey Maldonado (Author)

Reading Level: 6th − 7th Grade

"Gorgeous and gripping, Hands is a poetic page-turner. You might just finish it in one sitting. Torrey Maldonado understands the kids he writes for at the deepest level." --Adam Gidwitz, Newbery Honor-winning author of The Inquisitor's Tale

The author of What Lane? and Tight delivers a fast-paced read that packs a punch about a boy figuring out how to best use his hands--to build or to knock down.

Trev would do anything to protect his mom and sisters, especially from his stepdad. But his stepdad's return stresses Trev--because when he left, he threatened Trev's mom. Rather than live scared, Trev takes matters into his own hands, literally. He starts learning to box to handle his stepdad. But everyone isn't a fan of his plan, because Trev's a talented artist, and his hands could actually help him build a better future. And they're letting him know. But their advice for some distant future feels useless in his reality right now. Ultimately, Trev knows his future is in his hands, and his hands are his own, and he has to choose how to use them.

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Kirkus Reviews

A short story with a lasting impact.


 This has a powerful plot and an immersive text, and it's packaged in a short format perfect for impatient readers.

Publishers Weekly

With help from his friend and neighbor Pete, 12-year-old Trev begins learning how to box, hoping to use these skills to defend his mother and sisters from his jealous and violent stepfather, who maintains he's the "only man in the house" and is returning home from two years in jail for physically abusing Trev's mom. Trev also finds solace in artistic pursuits, particularly his love of illustrating superheroes, after whom he models his athletic goals: he also often pushes himself to his limits while training to become a competent boxer like his grandfather. This training starts impacting Trev's studies and his relationship with his community, however: after he smashes a window with his bare hands, scaring a younger neighbor, he reckons with the consequences of unchecked emotions surrounding his newfound physical strength and stemming from internalized toxic masculinity. Trev navigates his trauma by seeking advice from older men in his neighborhood and adapts to what he believes is positive masculinity. This intense page-turner by Maldonado (What Lane?) perceptively explores the complexities of one Black tween's experience facing difficult situations, the effect that violence has on one family's future, and the value of community when working through hardship. Ages 10-up. (Jan.)

Copyright 2022 Publishers Weekly, LLC Used with permission.

School Library Journal

Starred Review

Gr 5 Up--Maldonado's latest tells a story many middle grade kids will have an immediate personal connection to: shouldering adult problems and taking them on as their own. Trev is scared after his abusive stepfather is sent back to jail and tries to prepare for the man's imminent release by learning to box so he can defend himself and his family by fighting with his hands. Trev is a gifted artist and is constantly being told by the adults around him that he has promise and a future; fighting is not intuitive to him. He dreams of taking his mother and sisters away from the projects to a place that he will not have to "throw hands" as a method of defense. Maldonado's story moves quickly, but it packs a punch with a rapidly progressing plot and short chapters. Tweens will appreciate the tight prose. When the novel concludes, readers will feel a sense of the real community Trev has beyond his immediate family. They will also appreciate the complex supporting characters and feel hopeful for Trev's future. Those who have enjoyed Maldonado's earlier books as well as fans of Jason Reynolds "Track" series will love this one too. VERDICT This is an absolute must-have for every middle grade library collection.--Kim Gardner

Copyright 2022 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

Review quotes

"Based on Maldonado's own experience of growing up in Brooklyn's Red Hook Houses, this is an accessible, engaging, and heartfelt story." —Horn Book

Torrey Maldonado
Torrey Maldonado (torreymaldonado.com), the author of the critically acclaimed What Lane? and Tight, is a teacher in Brooklyn, New York, where he was born and raised. His books reflect his students' and his experiences.
Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Nancy Paulsen Books
Publication date
January 24, 2023
BISAC categories
JUV011010 - Juvenile Fiction | People & Places | United States - African-American
JUV005000 - Juvenile Fiction | Boys & Men
JUV039020 - Juvenile Fiction | Social Themes | Adolescence
Library of Congress categories
Family life
Boxing stories

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