As we reach the end of the year, I want to be sure to present reviews of books that should not be missed, that need to find their way into school and public library collections for teens.
The Other Wes Moore is nonfiction that reads like a novel, a book that shows teenagers how much their decisions matter. The author does not present his life story for a teen audience specifically, and he resists any desire to preach. His book will appeal both to teens who might see their own lives reflected back at them, as well as those who read it more to understand another way of life.
It is incredible how much the two Wes Moores had in common as young teens. And the fact that they carried on a correspondence across prison walls for several years. This is a personal story that reveals truths about American society, and especially the consequences of growing up in a home without a father.
Adult/High School–Growing up African-American in Baltimore and the Bronx in the 1980s was like growing up in a war zone for the two boys named Wes Moore. Crime, violence, and drugs were rampant, and a hopeful future seemed impossible. One Wes Moore made choices that led to a life sentence in the penitentiary. The other one turned from crime toward a life that included a Rhodes scholarship and a successful career. The Wes Moore who escaped the fate of the criminal reflects on how two young men in similar circumstances make often thoughtless and impulsive choices that determine first their reputation and then their fate. What differentiates these two fatherless boys is that one had adults to guide, counsel, love, and discipline him through bad choices and the other did not. For much of their youth, it is not clear that this is enough to save one boy from the fate of the other. All teens are familiar with bad choices, and will find in these parallel life stories a compelling demonstration of consequences. Without being preachy or judgmental, Moore describes the divergent paths of two lives in a way that will offer hope to those who feel overwhelmed by circumstances that seem hopeless. The book includes an ample resource guide to national and local organizations that provide services to troubled youth.–John Sexton, Westchester Library System, NY