Lockdown by Walter Dean Myers
Release Date: 2010
Publisher: Harper Collins
Reese has had to learn the hard way that one stupid act can land you where you never wanted to be. Now serving time at Progress Juvenile Facility, he is doing his best to keep himself out of trouble and get back home. And his good behavior hasn't gone completely unnoticed; he has been chosen for a new work-release program at Evergreen, an assisted living center for seniors. Matched with Mr. Hooft, Reese struggles to gain the man's respect and to prove he's not some hoodlum from the streets. The lessons he learns from Mr. Hooft are invaluable, but will they be enough to keep him on the straight and narrow road; especially if keeping out of trouble means turning his back on a friend in need? Can Reese turn his life around or will he be bound to spend the rest of his life in and out of prison?
The Short of It: I really did enjoy this one. I must confess I’ve only read one other Walter Dean Myers book, which was Monster. While they have the same sort of feel, Lockdown was more straightforward and easier to read. I liked how the little life lessons were mixed in without feeling overwhelming/beating the reader over the head with them.
Plot: This book is brutally honest. The only way Reese is going to get himself out of the dead-end lifestyle is if he works for it himself. Most of the adults in his life are not going to give any help. In fact, he would have been sent upstate long ago had he not been chosen for the juvenile facility’s work-release program. Pulling him out for his “bad behavior” would only make the warden and others involved look bad. And Reese already knows that those around him will only tug them back down to their level. No one wants to see another escape when they themselves are still trapped. This story is about Reese finding that motivation to keep him alive and going. Nothing comes easy for Reese, but isn’t that so true to life? And while Reese may not get the easy way out of jail, I think the life lessons were worth the extra struggle. I have hope that Reese’s life back in the real world will be a good one and that he’ll accomplish all that he sets his mind to.
Characters: I have to admit, I kind of felt sorry for Reese. Yes, he did something kind of stupid, but I’m not sure the action warranted the punishment he got. Basically, he was a scapegoat for someone doing crap way worse than him. Not only that, but then all the punishment he got for defending a friend seemed unfair, too. He didn’t start the fights, he was just trying to protect a weaker kid. But I guess a fight is a fight in prison no matter how/why you were involved. However, I felt that underneath it all he really was a good kid. The bad decisions he kept making were to help out people he cared about.
Romance: None in this book. But the poor boy is in jail and is trying to set his life back on track, so romance really is the last thing on his mind!
Writing: Myers is quite skilled in weaving a story together. It takes a special skill to tie in the parallels and life lessons without feeling preachy and still make the read enjoyable. I really had no complaints in this department. The pacing and style were well done and I never felt bored. I also want to mention how smooth the actual storytelling was. I can remember in Monster having a couple moments of confusion because of the style/flashbacks, but there was none of that in Lockdown. If you have teens who kind of liked Monster, but were thrown off by the style, I would give them Lockdown. Chances are they’ll like the straight-forward storytelling much better.
Librarian-Mode: This is definitely more of a boy book, but I think that girls can enjoy it just as well. If they’re fans of Myers’ books, especially Monster, they’ll love this one as well. This type of book isn’t my normal reading, but it kind of fits in with those nitty gritty true life books, so it go over well for fans of Ellen Hopkins and Paul Volponi.