Secret Saturdays

By Torrey Maldonado
Putnam Juvenile • 2010 • 195 pages
Hardcover ($16.99)
ISBN 978-0-399-25158-0
Ages 10 and up

What does it mean to be a man? Living in the hardscrabble neighborhood of Red Hook, in New York City, sixth-grader Justin believes that his friend, Sean, has it nailed.  He is good looking, popular, and able to “dis” other students with incisive attacks to their weak spots, for which he has a seemingly unerring sense.  Justin and Sean are best buddies, both dealing with the abandonment of their fathers, though Sean’s dad, living in Puerto Rico, supports his family well.  Or does he?

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In this involving character study, Sean begins to unravel, allowing his verbal attacks on other students to become ever more vicious, eventually culminating in physical violence.  As his behavior escalates, Sean pulls away from Justin and his other close friend, Kyle, both of whom are hurt by what they know to be lies about Sean’s whereabouts on Saturdays and stories about his father.

Compulsively readable, with a smooth and affecting use of street jargon and an impressive sense of place and time, this thought-provoking read explores issues of teenagers’ cruelty to each other, the necessity of expressing feelings, and the nature of truth and friendship. An excellent book for parents and sons to read together, Secret Saturdays is sure to lead to talks, and insight.  This book is especially appropriate for middle school guidance and literature programs for its potential to impact students where they live.

Reviewed by Ann Welton, Helen B. Stafford Elementary, Tacoma, Washington