Hey y’all! I know I don’t usually post reviews on Wednesdays, but I decided to make a special exception for this new release. I recieved an eARC of Punching the Air for the tour that’s being organized by Karina @ Afire Pages. My official post for the tour will be going up on Friday.
From award-winning, bestselling author Ibi Zoboi and prison reform activist Yusef Salaam of the Exonerated Five comes a powerful YA novel in verse about a boy who is wrongfully incarcerated. Perfect for fans of Jason Reynolds, Walter Dean Myers, and Elizabeth Acevedo.
The story that I thought
was my life
didn’t start on the day
I was born
Amal Shahid has always been an artist and a poet. But even in a diverse art school, he’s seen as disruptive and unmotivated by a biased system. Then one fateful night, an altercation in a gentrifying neighborhood escalates into tragedy. “Boys just being boys” turns out to be true only when those boys are white.
The story that I think
will be my life
Suddenly, at just sixteen years old, Amal’s bright future is upended: he is convicted of a crime he didn’t commit and sent to prison. Despair and rage almost sink him until he turns to the refuge of his words, his art. This never should have been his story. But can he change it?
With spellbinding lyricism, award-winning author Ibi Zoboi and prison reform activist Yusef Salaam tell a moving and deeply profound story about how one boy is able to maintain his humanity and fight for the truth, in a system designed to strip him of both.
Trigger Warnings: racism, false imprisonment, abuse and violence, use of racial slur
Representation: Black main character, Muslim mc, POC supporting characters
Purchase Link: Bookshop
This was such an emotional, hard-hitting story. I actually met Yusef Salaam when he came to speak at my university and it was an amazing experience. He has a truly kind and gentle spirit, and it’s something you can really feel when he speaks. The way he’s turned that pain into something so uplifting and impactful is honestly something that I can’t even begin to comprehend.
The main character of this story is growing in his spiritual journey throughout the novel and that’s shown really beautifully here. Yusef is Muslim and I think this will be a story that a lot of young Muslims can relate to. I myself am Christian, but I love learning about other religions and reading about people going through their own spiritual journeys. I could definitely see parallels between how I grew in my own spirituality and how Amal is growing in his.
You really start to connect with Amal and his experiences throughout the story. That’s one of the things I really love about poetry and novels told through verse. Amal is an artist and poet, with both of those characteristics playing major roles in his life and his decisions. Amal also makes decisions that are definitely ones that teenage boys make. It’s truly the combination of wrong time, wrong place, and messed up system that lead him to where he is in the story.
The Not so Good
This is a very heavy read so make sure to go into this with that in mind. It’s beautifully told, but extremely heartbreaking.
All in All
This story reminded me a lot of Monster by Walter Dean Myers. I remember first reading it in middle school with my English class. It was so heartbreaking and really opened a lot of our eyes to just how hard life can be and how unjust the system is. I think Punching the Air can bring out those same feelings in the next generation of readers. It’s honestly perfect for classrooms and for reading on your own.
Disclaimer: This post contains an affiliate link. It doesn’t change the price of the book, it just gives me a small percentage of the sale if you buy it using my link. No biggie though.