Release Date: May 14, 2013
Author Info: Website
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Age Group: Young Adult
Format: Advance Reading Copy
“One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest meets Catcher in the Rye.
A fifteen-year-old boy from an abusive home desperately seeking his older brother’s love and approval starts pushing drugs for him and suffers the consequences.”
Check out Kindness for Weakness on Goodreads here.
I don’t even know where to start with Shawn Goodman’s young adult contemporary novel Kindness for Weakness. This novel is so good, that I devoured it in one sitting.
I. Could. Not. Put. It. Down.
Funny how I was wary of it at first—a teenager sent to prison because of his relentless need for approval from a less than stellar big brother? I honestly didn’t know how this was going to go. But I was extremely surprised and so honoured that I was given the chance to read this. Everyone should read this.
Goodman’s writing is brilliant. He manages to draw you into a story that would otherwise make you cringe. It is so unflinchingly honest that for a while after reading the heartbreaking conclusion, you won’t know what to do with yourself. You’ll ask questions, you’ll want more, but the truth is, Goodman’s story isn’t something that can be simply filed away as fiction—if you want more than what the story has to offer, you will probably get it by scanning the news about boys and girls in situations disturbingly similar to Goodman’s protagonist.
James, the protagonist, is someone that immediately sticks out. A loner whose outward appearance mimics his own internal struggle, boy caught between boyhood and manhood, James doesn’t have the easiest life. While we may argue his innocence while he is arrested for his brother’s crimes, we also have to note that this is a huge step towards James understanding not just who his brother is, but who he is.
The prose is gorgeous. Goodman seamlessly maneuvers the thoughts of a teenaged boy on the edge of becoming what society constitutes as a “man”. The pacing, though the book goes by quickly, is actually pretty strong. There is never a dull moment and I honestly learned a lot about the Juvie system.
Perhaps some of my favourite traits that James has are the little quirks presented in the novel. Much like the cliched ideals in past novels that a protagonist somehow “finds” him/herself after reading a book, James, with the help of his brilliant English teacher, openly sets out to understand the message within his current read. I also like the hope he gains as the story progresses, and how he comes into what he defines as a man, as opposed to what society would want him to be, or expect him to become.
James’s best friend in jail, a gay black teenager, is the victim of both physical and verbal abuse from not just the inmates, but from the people in charge. He inadvertently helps James become a stronger character because by befriending the one person everyone warns him against, he is already showing signs of being a powerful character by making his own choices.
Some may argue that this is a novel written solely for male readers, but saying that is like saying that J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye is written only from younger readers. Any one can not only read Kindness for Weakness, but they can walk away with a better understanding of life and how our choices can help us grow—whether we believe it or not.
So, yes, I recommend this to everyone. Kindness for Weakness is as beautiful as it is saddening. It is a great portrayal of character growth in a difficult setting. The conclusion will have the reader contemplating his/her own life, and it will leave you breathless, and wondering why life sometimes throws us a curveball.
Goodman’s novel showcases maliciousness alongside beauty and hope. It shows that humans are flawed, but at the end of the day, we choose who we want to become.
I give Shawn Goodman’s Kindness for Weakness: