If I Grow Up by Todd Strasser


In the Frederick Douglass Project where DeShawn lives, daily life is ruled by drugs and gang violence. Many teenagers drop out of school and join gangs, and every kid knows someone who died. Gunshots ring out on a regular basis.

DeShawn is smart enough to know he should stay in school and keep away from the gangs. But while his friends have drug money to buy fancy sneakers and big-screen TVs, DeShawn’s family can barely afford food for the month. How can he stick to his principles when his family is hungry?

In this gritty novel about growing up in the inner city, award-winning author Todd Strasser opens a window into the life of a teenager struggling with right and wrong under the ever-present shadow of gangs.

If I Grow UpIf I Grow Up by Todd Strasser

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I thought this book was really powerful. I’ve read my share of books about gangs and situations like this, but I thought that Todd Strasser would be able to pull it off in an entirely new way. And he did.

I mean–the whole time as I was reading this book, I was rooting for DeShawn. I wanted so badly for this, somehow, to become a happy ending. And in a way, it did. But this book also left me in rage mode for a while, because it completely stomped on my expectations in a really bittersweet way.

(view spoiler)[ I can’t say I want the ending to be different, I just have really mixed feelings about it right now. It was interesting how Todd Strasser decided to hand Terrell the happy ending and not DeShawn. It makes me happy and sad at the same time. (hide spoiler)]

I wasn’t a huge fan of Todd Strasser’s BOOT CAMP, but I really liked his book, THE WAVE, and I really want to read CAN’T GET THERE FROM HERE and GIVE A BOY A GUN. More important than my views on BOOT CAMP, was the way BOOT CAMP left an impression on me. After reading THE WAVE, I decided that this lingering feeling of horror, surprise and interest was not a one-time occasion, and decided to read this story.

This book teaches a valuable lesson, as do a lot of his books, and although it feels like a middle-grade read to me, it’s a book that even adults and teenagers can learn from.

I thought that the format of this book was interesting, but it actually grew on me by the end of the book. It provided another layer of depth to the story, where you could understand the situation and everything that was going on. This hit me just as I turned the very last page, and I went and flipped through the book again. Through the book, I was able to understand more clearly. I was impressed because of that.

This book left me wanting something more. I think I’ll look more into books like this, because I need something that teenagers will have a burning desire to read and will teach them the lesson portrayed in this story.

This story is well-written. The pacing was a little slow in the beginning, but began to speed up and eventually slowed down again to go on a steady pace until the end of the book. The storyline was intriguing and I never felt like the book was boring. 3.5 stars.

pg count for the hardback: 240


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