All the Right Stuff

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New York Times bestselling author Walter Dean Myers tackles the social contract from a teen’s perspective in his novel All the Right Stuff. In one of his most thought-provoking novels to date, Myers weaves together political philosophy, basketball, and making soup in Harlem, with the depth that defines his writing career.
After his father is shot and killed, Paul Dupree finds a summer job at a Harlem soup kitchen. Elijah, the soup man, ...

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All the Right Stuff

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New York Times bestselling author Walter Dean Myers tackles the social contract from a teen’s perspective in his novel All the Right Stuff. In one of his most thought-provoking novels to date, Myers weaves together political philosophy, basketball, and making soup in Harlem, with the depth that defines his writing career.
After his father is shot and killed, Paul Dupree finds a summer job at a Harlem soup kitchen. Elijah, the soup man, questions Paul about tough life choices, even though Paul would rather be playing basketball. Over the summer, Paul begins to understand the importance of taking control of your life.
All the Right Stuff includes a Q&A between Walter Dean Myers and Ross Workman, coauthor of Kick.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Printz-winner Myers (Monster) expertly turns a series of Socratic dialogues on the nature of the social contract into an engrossing and fast-paced novel that never feels preachy. Shortly after his father is killed by a stray bullet, Harlem teenager Paul DuPree takes a summer job in a soup kitchen. His elderly supervisor, Elijah, engages Paul in discussions about the social contract, introducing him to the basic concepts, as well as to the teachings of Locke, Hobbes, Hume, and Rousseau. Paul also hears from neighborhood gangster Sly, whose college studies have persuaded him that the social contract is just a tool to keep the poor in check. As Paul weighs the opposing viewpoints, he applies what he learns to his late father’s life, as well as the lives lived by the senior citizens Elijah helps, Paul’s other family members, and Keisha, a basketball player he’s mentoring by helping her with her outside game. Myers fits a large cast and many motivations into a relatively small work, and they in turn transform this extended examination of political philosophy into a must-read novel. Ages 14–up. (May)
Chicago Sun-Times
“Myers has cooked up a provocative novel that simmers long after its last pages.”
Children's Literature - Elizabeth Leis-Newman
The summer that Paul DuPree's father is killed in a shooting, he goes to work in a Harlem soup kitchen for senior citizens under the tutelage of a man named Elijah. Elijah quickly starts imparting lessons around the social contract, causing Paul to think about his role in society. Meanwhile, Paul begins mentoring a seventeen-year-old unwed mother who is hoping to use basketball to get into college. To his credit, Dean Myers never condescends to his readers, with heavy lessons and philosophies making up the bulk of the material. Even though one of the characters challenges Paul to think about whether the social contract is always fair to everyone, there is a clear message about taking responsibility for one's own life and decisions. While there is a basic coming-of-age story around Paul, the story is more focused around ideas than character development and plot. By the end, Paul has learned to understand his father better, noting philosophers like Hobbes and Rousseau "had little to do with people like my father." Still, by talking to Elijah and other people in the neighborhood, Paul has developed a sense of the life he wants to lead. In general, this book is a good choice for a teenage book club or a classroom, as it easily lends itself to group discussions and provides a worldview into a teenager's life in Harlem. But other readers will be more likely to latch onto books with stronger characters or more action that is less direct about imparting its ideas. Reviewer: Elizabeth Leis-Newman
VOYA - Charla Hollingsworth
Paul is just trying to get by in his world—not make waves or get noticed too much. To this end, he gets a summer job at a small soup kitchen run by an eccentric neighborhood figure, Elijah. Paul soon learns that his job at the soup kitchen is less about making soup and more about learning about the way society should work from Elijah. Through daily philosophical discussions, Elijah teaches Paul about the social contract, Rousseau, and societal rules Paul has never thought about. Along with the summer job, Paul volunteers to help tutor a neighbor and tries to stay away from the more nefarious characters in his surroundings. All the while, Paul ruminates about the theories and philosophies Elijah is sharing with him. While All the Right Stuff begins with a bang, like most books written by Myers, it quickly takes an uncharacteristic turn. Typically Myers writes high-interest stories for reluctant readers. All the Right Stuff seems to have been written with reluctant readers in mind, but very few will have the background knowledge to understand (or interest to learn) about philosophy and social contract theories. Reviewer: Charla Hollingsworth
School Library Journal
Gr 8 Up—As Paul Dupree enters the summer before his senior year, his father is killed. Between time in jail and his drug addiction, fatherhood was not a priority for the man. Shortly after his death, Paul lands a summer community job at Elijah Jones's Soup Emporium in Harlem, and, as part of his assignment, he mentors Keisha Marant, a teenage mom and basketball superstar, in order to improve her outside shot. He spends his time with Elijah, an octogenarian, learning about soup and the social contract. He develops relationships with Elijah, Keisha, the regulars at the soup kitchen, and Sly—a possible thug who rejects the basics of the "Social Contract." Paul uses his experience with his father; conversations with Elijah, whose wisdom and patience are new to him; and the relationships he develops over the summer to make up his mind about the philosophies of Jean Jacques Rousseau and others on how to succeed in life. The plot is dense with dialogue about the social contract. Myers does a thorough job of covering different aspects, holes, arguments for and against, and questions involving the theory. He also does an excellent job of relating it to urban African American culture today. Reluctant readers might give up on this novel early on, but those who stick with it will find it rewarding. A good fit for school libraries in which the social contract is taught or emphasized.—Adrienne L Strock, Maricopa County Library District, AZ
Kirkus Reviews
Until he met Elijah, 16-year-old Paul never considered how one person's decisions and actions might affect the entire community. Paul DuPree has taken on two jobs: work in a soup kitchen and the required mentoring of a young basketball player. At the soup kitchen, he meets Elijah Jones, the project's driving force and resident philosopher. Elijah sees himself as doing more than filling bellies. He believes he is fulfilling the "social contract." As Elijah trains Paul, he urges him to consider his ideas. Paul is skeptical but tries to apply the concepts to questions about his recently deceased father and the teen mom he is mentoring. Paul never had much of a relationship with his father, described as "forty-two-year-old Richard DuPree, underemployed ex-felon, ex-drug addict, father of one." Keisha, high-school dropout and mother of a little girl, needs Paul's help to fulfill her dream of professional basketball. She resists Elijah's ideas. "Because the rules don't work for everybody, and so they don't go for everybody." Myers, the recently named National Ambassador for Young People's Literature, has crafted a provocative exploration of social philosophy and shows how it can resonate in the lives of the young and the disadvantaged. Paul's quest for understanding seems heartfelt and real, though there are times when the story slows down as characters discuss their views. A novel that will provide teachers and others a relevant tool for introducing and discussing a complex subject. (Fiction. 14 & up)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061960888
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 4/24/2012
  • Format: Library Binding
  • Pages: 213
  • Age range: 13 - 17 Years
  • Product dimensions: 5.30 (w) x 7.10 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Five-time Coretta Scott King Award winner Walter Dean Myers was the acclaimed author of a wide variety of nonfiction and fiction for young people. His nonfiction includes We Are America: A Tribute from the Heart; Now Is Your Time!: The African-American Struggle for Freedom; I've Seen the Promised Land: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.; Ida B. Wells: Let the Truth Be Told; Malcolm X: A Fire Burning Brightly; and Patrol: An American Soldier in Vietnam, a Jane Addams Children's Book Award winner. His illustrious list of young adult novels includes Darius & Twig; All the Right Stuff; Lockdown; Dope Sick; Autobiography of My Dead Brother; the New York Times bestseller Monster, which was the first winner of the Michael L. Printz Award; and many more. He was the 2012-2013 National Ambassador for Young People's Literature and an inaugural NYC Literary Honoree.

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 8, 2012

    May seem a bit complex at first but pretty interesting

    At first, all the introductions to the political philosophies of the "social contract" may drag a bit as a political commentary instead of a novel, but you eventually find out it's applicable to many of the book's many interesting characters' perspectives and dilemmas. This book is best for deep thinkers who at the very least appreciate philosophy.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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