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Summary: Nicky Martini's oldest (and only) brother Roy has gone off to fight in Vietnam. Here at home, Nicky is struggling with a war of his own. His neighborhood, Eggplant Alley, is changing. Its not all white anymore. His friends are moving out and the guys that are left - mostly his brother's friends - are punks. They all love stick ball, and Nicky is convinced that he can draw everyone back with a game or two. With Roy gone there aren't enough guys to play, but he and Lester Allnuts (the new kid in the apartment upstairs) are determined to revive the game. Lester has his own reasons for wanting the game to go on, and when Nicky discovers why, it just might change his view of the neighborhood. This chapter book, set in the 1960s, has timeless themes that resonate with teens.
Type of Reading: independent reading
Recommended Age: read together: 10 to 14; read yourself: 13 and up
Interest Level: 12 and up
Young Reader Reaction: Review pending.
Adult Reader Reaction: Nicky's is a coming of age story that will appeal to older readers or kids living in an urban environment. There were times when I found it really good - like Nicky's discussions with Lester about race and change. Then there were times I thought it went off track.
Pros: Nicky and Lester are real characters whose friendship is genuine. Readers will connect with them, the dilemmas they face, and their attitudes toward change and growing up.
Cons: As a Boomer, the setting and time period make sense to me. It may not grab readers who don't have that frame of reference. That said, the context of where racial prejudice "came from," will be enlightening to many.
Borrow or Buy: Borrow. This is an exceptional read that both teens and adults can enjoy. It would be a perfect choice for a father-son book club.
Educational Themes: The backdrop of the Vietnam War offers some context for the story, but the "meat" of the book is viewing the world through Nicky's eyes. There are plenty of chances to "walk in Nicky's shoes" and discuss the world as he sees it.
Notes: The publisher donated a copy of this book knowing that we would consider it for review and provide an independent, unbiased profile. This book will be given to a nonprofit to help readers in need.
Literary Categories: Fiction - Young Adult, family, friendship, 1960s, realistic fiction, urban, coming of age, multicultural
Date(s) Reviewed: December 2013
Other Reviews: See Critics Reviews at barnesandnoble.com; and reviews and reader feedback at amazon.com.