“Micheal, Tommy, Mixer and Bones aren’t just from the wrong side of the tracks–they’re from the wrong side of everything.”
Three misfit teenagers believe that one of their friends has been murdered by their English teacher. With this conclusion in mind, they set out to discover what happened to Tommy. It is told from the first-person perspective of Micheal–yes, Micheal.– a fifteen year old delinquent among his delinquent squad. They’re not stupid–except the one that is–they just don’t care about school. They’re not going to be anybody, they know that, but they didn’t ask anyone to point it out, thanks.
Generally, I don’t like YA Contemporary, but I completely judged Gentlemen by its cover and picked it up. Micheal is not popular or cool. He’s mostly a skinny nobody with a messed-up eye and exactly the kind of kid to harass except he is friends with Bones, and Bones barely needs a reason to start and finish a fight. Mixer is the thief of the group, the clever one who reads people, and pushes buttons. Then Tommy, the new blood in their group, who keeps them all level and light–not that he is an angel himself.
There are more things about this book I liked than not. Starting there, Micheal’s character development from the beginning to the end of the book was well done. Most YA are about characters ‘growing up’ into adulthood, and this story accomplishes that. His friends don’t receive as much attention or noticeable shift in their dynamic, but the story is told in first person, and it’s only about 200 pages. That can be forgiven
The suspense and mystery were interesting to me. Mr. Haberman is the suspect teacher and has a way of creeping into your head a bit, the way Northrop writes him. I found him an interesting character to read about, though I couldn’t guess his motive in wanting to kill Tommy.
The tone of the book is irreverent, of course, being told from the view of a teenaged, small town boy. It was sort of fun, in the sense of getting into someone’s mind is, but then also, teenaged boy. Get me out.
The friendship among the boys is very apparent and real, and I loved how tight and loyal they were. It wasn’t laugh out loud funny, but it’s not meant to be. There are parts where I’m reminded what being a teenager was like, though my experiences were not the same at all as any of the boys in the book. It was a fast-paced, short thrill that kept me much more entertained than my slow day job, and I was able to finish it in my seven-hour shift.
There were less elements that I did not like, and the first one is quite serious. While all the boys are bad, Bones is unquestionably the worse. This next part is a bit of a spoiler but also a trigger warning so get ready, get set, here it is—There is a house in the woods the boys go to sometimes, and Bones rapes a girl. She is already there, according to him, drunk and high and mostly out of it. But he does, and Micheal sees them. And he leaves. Just leaves and lets it happen. This, I think, is to in part illustrate his growth at the end of the book, but I did not like that and I was very disappointed in him for just doing nothing. Were I in his place though, I might disappoint myself because Bones is crazy.
The characterization is not as strong for the secondary characters, and yes, they are secondary, and it’s first person, and only two-hundred pages. I wanted way more for the other boys, but I understand why that was limited.
All in all, I enjoyed Gentlemen. The plot progressed quickly enough and came to a satisfying resolution. I could sympathize with Mixer and Micheal in the end, and it was a good and proper conclusion. 4 out of 5 stars.
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