Friday, March 1, 2013

Robinson’s Hood (Robin’s Hood #1)

Robinson’s Hood (Robin’s Hood #1)
Jeff Gottesfeld
Saddleback, 2013
$8.95, Softcover

Genre: Realistic Fiction
Age: 12+
Description: Robinson “Robin” Page is a boy living in the tough part of town. Ever since his parents died, he has been living with his grandmother above her shrimp shack store which does alright. He and his friends are saddened to hear that the local community center, which many in the neighborhood relies on, is going to be forced to close in just a few days if they can’t raise the $25,000 for repairs for the leaking roof. On top of all this, the local school bully is making Robin do his homework and the local gang, the Rangers, has threatened his grandmother’s business. If she doesn’t pay $100 a week in protection money some bad stuff will happen. When she refuses, her shop is trashed and only $100 is taken from the cash register. Robin can’t stand idly by anymore and decides he is fed up with everything. Once night he looks outside his window and sees a Ranger accessing a secret drop off spot for their drug money. Taking a risk, and not actually knowing what the man has planted, he decides to go see for himself and discovers lots of drugs (which he flushes down the toilet) and a little more than $25,000. At the closing party of the center (they plan one last hurrah) Robin and his friends decide to secretly deposit the cash under the director’s door. Unfortunately, one of the center’s old patrons sees them doing it and, at the close of the book, Robin is kidnapped.
Opinion: Robin is an admirable hero. Clearly, this is an urban modernization of Robin Hood. The book is short and a very quick read. Robin is stuck in his economic condition but he wants to try and escape from it. He is the opposite of the drug dealers that run rampant in the city. He is a good student and his grandmother tries to make sure he speaks properly (the gang members speak in dialect). Of course, how he thinks he can get away with stealing that much cash is beyond me. The ending is very abrupt (Robin screaming for help). Luckily for any reluctant readers all three books in the trilogy were released at the same time so there is no wait to find out what happens to Robin.

Here’s what some of my teens had to say:

Audi, 20, says “I didn’t really like the cover. I thought it was bland looking. I was more attracted to the book’s description, especially since I don’t like to judge a book by its cover. The most compelling part of this short book was the lives and depictions of the characters. However, I knew from the beginning this book was not going to be for me. My advisor explained to me what “urban fiction” was and I have never read any before. I really liked the premise of the plot but there were too many slang words (and many used over and over) that made it very hard for me to read. I understand why it was done like that (to try to represent how some urban teens actually talk) but sometimes that can be really hard to follow in print as you try to decipher what a word is meant to mean. It might have been easier to read if the author cut down on the amount of slang or tried to vary the slang words up since many were used again and again. I would have also liked to see more description so I could have envisioned the world better in my mind. However, I will admit that I have never read urban fiction before and I was also told that the book is a hi-low (high interest, low difficulty) and I understand the importance of such books. I think the plot was very interesting and would make a good book for the right reader (which I was not).”           

Haley, 17, says, “I thought the cover was dull but it did reflect the contents. Considering that this is a hi-low urban fiction title, I would have hoped for something a little more interesting to attract readers who aren’t strong readers or dislike reading. Sometimes having a really compelling cover is important to attract those readers. There wasn’t one here. If I had to pick something that is most compelling about the book, I’d say the description as it sounded cool. I guess another could be that I finished it in my downtime of four classes so it probably took me two hours to read at most. Sadly, though, it was dull and boring. I felt that it had no plot. This book is basically the tale of Robin Hood modernized, but with no interesting twist. It was boring with a capital B! The author just took Robin Hood’s story and plucked it into the modern day and into a world of young black kids, which I have no problem with. I understand that it is supposed to be urban fiction and, clearly, I am not the audience that such books are marketed to. However, I really would have liked to see something that made it a better modernization than just making the characters black teens struggling in the ghetto. It was also really short and I felt the action wasn’t really there which I kind of thought hi-low books were supposed to be action filled to get the reader’s attention. What the hell? This book was readable but barely. The ending was a total cliffhanger but since I didn’t really care about the characters I didn’t really feel compelled to be dying for the next book.”            

Noelle, 18, says, “I didn’t really like the graffiti effect on the walls on the cover. It looked photoshopped and amateurish.  The most interesting part of the story was how it dealt with gang life. While I struggle with reading and thought a hi-low book would be appealing, I don’t think I was the correct audience meant for this book. I actually struggled with the fact that it used a lot of slang words and phonetically spelled words which made it hard to read for someone who doesn’t talk like that.”  

*Thanks to Amber Dormanesh at Saddleback for providing an ARC of this title for the YA Galley Group project!*

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