Tone knows the rules. Keep quiet. Keep hidden. Try to survive. That means ignoring the cries of his mom’s latest boyfriend beating her, the drug dealing biker gang next door, and all the pain and horror that he sees on a daily basis. But his one and only friend has found something that seems to actually make him happy. MMA. And when Tone gets pulled into the world of sport fighting he starts finding things in himself he thought were long dead. Things like pride, respect, and even hope. But those things can get you killed in Tone’s neighborhood. Now Tone has to make a choice between hope and survival, and he’s not sure that he has a choice at all.
This book is a dark, bleak, gritty, and hard. It felt like a punch to the gut, or maybe repeated hooks to the head and knees to the face. Something very painful and violent anyways. That being said, I think it’s a great read. The characters are sort of straightforward and the language is simple and direct, but all that works for the world this book describes. The action scenes are clear, direct, and brutal. They will leave you pumped for the MMA style fighting and feeling beat and disgusted at the street violence. The contrast between the two was a clever way to show the difference between violent sport and violence at home. The action scenes are wisely spaced far apart and the book focuses on the day to day drudgery of Tone’s life. This may not make you feel sunshiney and bright, but it is a real slice of what all too many teens have to face in the real world. Now, that’s an entire subgenre of realistic fiction and I can understand wanting to take the occasional break from the dreariest corners of the world and read about vampires and whatnot too. However, if you want a hard knock book that will keep you hooked then this is a really solid title.
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