4 out of 4 stars
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It’s not easy being a teenager in the Bronx, especially when you’re an Italian immigrant who’s just beginning to learn English. Thirteen-year-old Joey finds himself in a new city and having to deal with new bullies and the usual teen angst. Luckily for Joey, it’s not so bad being the new kid on the block when your older cousin, Spike, is infamous throughout the entire neighborhood.“Teenagers experiment with their bodies and minds. We’re all feeling our way, you know? Trying to understand how we fit into this world.” -Spike, Goodbye, Rudy Kazoody
Enter Spike, a fifteen-year-old who is the perfect display of brains and brawn. Spike is a charismatic teen who adults fawn over, boys imitate and girls fantasize about. Being the gang leader of “The Black Knights,” a mostly harmless community of teens, Spike instantly helps Joey integrate into the neighborhood. Under Spike’s wings, Joey experiences a summer full of friendship, first love, sex and ultimately tragedy.
Goodbye, Rudy Kazoody by AA Freda, is a contemporary YA novel that covers many tough topics that teenagers face every day. In the book, we see the questioning of religion, physical abuse, sex and much more. This book isn’t a fantasy. The author creates characters and a plot that readers can relate to in one way or another. There is a lot of diversity in the book as we see Italian, Hispanic, Jewish, African American and Irish characters. The plot is straight forward, but has a steady pace. The language in the book is both inspirational and graphic. It’s inspirational because with every mistake the characters make, they learn from them. Readers benefit by learning right along with the characters. The language is graphic because of the moments of violence and the sex scenes. One scene involves a drunk teenager allowing herself to be “gang-banged.” This book is not for the faint of heart.
One of the things I enjoyed about the book were the characters; Joey and Spike. In the book, Joey is the narrator, but he mostly spends his time observing his cousin. Even though… Spike is obviously the bigger character, we still get the opportunity to learn about Joey and watch his development. He starts off as a young teenager who is naïve and easily targeted by others. He stood in Spike’s shadow and we witness his insecurities as he compares everything about himself to Spike. He starts to change, as every scene that had an impact on his life, had an impact on his character. He experiences the good and bad side of youth.
Spike is another fascinating character. The interesting thing about Spike is that his character doesn’t go through changes like Joey’s. He’s definitely not a “cookie-cutter” character… he’s too complex. He helps his friends when they’re going through tough times, but he hurts them by sleeping with their moms and sisters. He is an infamous fighter around the neighborhood, but he’s also a voracious reader who enjoys trips to the library. He threatens people, but will openly talk about his dream of being a public service lawyer because he wants to make a difference in the world. Spike’s character is a huge contradiction. Those contradictions are why he is so complex and likeable. He’s complicated… and he’s okay with that. He doesn’t try to change anything about himself for anyone. He’s a strong character that I feel teenagers need to read about.
If I had to give negatives, it would be the fact that I felt Spike should have been the narrator since it was mostly his story. Also, the author tried to create an enigma in the story, “Rudy Cazoody.” Rudy Cazoody simply wasn’t interesting to the plot. I felt it was a pointless addition to the story. Despite my negatives, I rate this book 4 out of 4 stars. The plot is realistic and relatable. Even though, at times it was a little too graphic with its sexual content, I reminded myself that sex is something that teens think about and do… whether adults like it or not. I recommend this book to older teens. Besides sex, it touches on other issues that are very important to them. This book could be a benefit.
Goodbye, Rudy Kazoody
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