January 8, 2010
Review: Lockdown by Walter Dean Myers
Author: Walter Dean Myers
Released: Feb 1, 2010
I could do detention. Sitting there in the dark, trembling as the minutes slip by. It didn’t make any difference how slow it went. I was locked in and the rest of the world was locked out. I couldn’t touch them, but they couldn’t touch me, either.
"I was all right.”
Lockdown explores an unlikely friendship between fourteen-year-old Progress inmate Reese and a man he meets through his work program at a local senior citizens’ home. When Mr. Hooft is finally able to open up about his harrowing past, he gives Reese a way to reenvision his own future. Imbued with the realism and authenticity that have marked Myers’s prolific writing career, this story questions how complicated it can be to separate right from wrong while struggling for survival.
Walter Dean Myers is one of my favorite YA and MG authors. He is never afraid to tackle tough subjects and make the reader think. This continues in Lockdown.
I went into the book thinking it would be this completely uplifting story of a young man changing his life. I should’ve known better – Myers would never follow the cliché. Instead he brings you into the world of juvenile detention in a way that opens your eyes up to what it means to be locked in there and locked into a life that doesn’t offer many options.
Reece is given the opportunity to do a work program at a nursing home. There he makes friends with an old man, Mr. Hooft, that challenges Reece with racial slurs and insults. Rather than shutting Reece down, Myers uses this relationship to grow and challenge what Reece believes to be true. As we learn more about Mr. Hooft, Reece learns more about who he is and what he needs to do with his own life. But Myers doesn't let this relationship fall into a cliche either, making everything easy for Reece. Instead, he makes Reece continue to work for his future.
Many times people will say about kids in jail “if they just made different choices they wouldn’t be locked up” or things like that. Myers allows the reader that thought but also makes you see everything that limits the reality of those choices. So many times I wanted to just shake Reece because he’d do something I just saw as stupid. But as he reflected on his own actions, Myers showed the reader how those choices were formed and the struggle it can be to do what’s right – even when you know it’s right.
I’d hoped to walk away from the book feeling inspired and uplifted. I didn't. Instead I walked away with something better – I walked away with an understanding of how some kids end up where they are. That yes it is their choices, but I understand better how those choices are formed and how they can be changed. That is, I believe, more what Myers wanted me to learn.
Final thoughts: Don't think this book will let you have the easy way out. You'll grow with Reece.
Best stick with you image: When Reece gains an understanding about why he's made the choices he has and what he needs to do to change.
Best for: This is a tough one. Twelve year olds could read it, but if they don't have experience with anyone or anything like Reece they may not understand it as well.