Bryan loves comics and hanging out with his mom — and even his big sister sometimes — with no drama. His dad has a temper and has been in jail for some misdemeanor. Now though, he’s on parole, and it seems like things may be looking up. But when a new boy his age, Mike, worms his way into Bryan’s family, it appears Bryan may have a new friend.
However, Mike is a bit of a daredevil and gets Bryan into skipping school and riding on top of trains. Mike is also jealous when Bryan befriends other people and tries to egg him into starting fights. Mike’s idea of manhood is not being “soft,” being ready to fight whenever. Still, it appears no one else can see anything wrong about Mike. Should Bryan keep his friendship? Should he absorb Mike’s idea of masculinity?
Tight is very realistic. As someone with a relatively sheltered childhood, it honestly made made me anxious to see Bryan hang out with someone so obviously bad for him. Especially stressful is the fact that his mother (who’s his main caregiver) is so busy and unaware, she misses all the signs. In the end, Bryan pretty much has to figure everything out by himself.
This book is so important — for all kids, but especially those who live in neighborhoods like Bryan’s. Young Black boys who still need to learn that masculinity can co-exist with softness should read this book. Their caregivers and teachers also need this book.
One final plus is how short Tight is. I listened to the audiobook and it was over in just about four hours. Goodreads tells me that the hardcover is 160 pages long, so it’s also excellent for children who enjoy short books or just aren’t big readers.
Torrey Maldonado’s Tight is a true-to-life representation of the lives of some boys. This upper middle-grade novel, in the vein of Paula Chase‘s Dough Boys highlights the humanity of all its characters — even Mike. It explores the search for personal identity and shows that kids need support and guidance.
Finally, this middle-grade book firmly disposes of the toxic ideas about masculinity popular within some cultures. I’d highly recommend this book to educators and parents alike! Plus, it’s under 200 pages!
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Have you read this book or any other middle-grade books tackling serious issues? Which ones are your favorites? I’d love to know.