Retaliation - What Would You Do If... by Yasmin Shiraz

*2009 ALA Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Readers

Tashera Odom is a quiet, intelligent, seventeen-year-old that works hard to stay out of the drama that plagues her violent Washington D.C. neighborhood. Known mainly for her pleasant personality, good grades and hair styling abilities, Tashera isn’t the type of teen that one would call ‘troubled.’ Her life changes when she is brutally attacked in an alley by three girls from her high school. The reader learns quickly that this attack is not random but deliberate. One of the attackers is the ex-girlfriend of Tashera’s boyfriend Ahmed and is jealous of the relationship.

While Tashera physically heals from the attack in the hospital, her mother, Shelia and wheelchair bound older brother Khalil both take matters into their own hands. Their main objective is to seek retaliation for the attack. The story quickly intensifies when Shelia is jailed after physically attacking the mother of one of the attackers. Meanwhile, Khalil plots to strike back at Tashera’s attackers by reconnecting with his former Deus-Tres gang members. The reaction of the attack described from the viewpoint of the police, school and community is raw and honest by the author and motivational speaker, Yasmin Shiraz. Since there are some surprises in the story, I won’t give away the events that lead up to the ending of the story.

I have had “Retaliation” on my bookshelf for months and kept putting off reading it due to other projects I’ve been working on. When I finally had the opportunity to read it, I did so in three sittings over a 24-hour period - I just couldn’t put this book down because it was so true to life. The book is based on Shiraz’s experience working with a 15 year old that was attacked by teens in her neighborhood. She vividly describes the violence in a community and how different members of the community react to it. I think the lingering question Shiraz presents readers with is if they think violence is the answer and a justifiable reason for retaliation. Given what is taking place in my city as well as other large urban cities across the nation, I think that this book should appear on district reading lists for pre-teens and teens and shouldn’t be missed.

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